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Pulling The Thread with Elise Loehnen
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Pulling The Thread with Elise Loehnen

Author: Elise Loehnen and Audacy

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45-minute conversations and investigations with today's leading thinkers, authors, experts, doctors, healers, scientists about life's biggest questions: Why do we do what we do? How can we come to know and love ourselves better? How can we come together to heal and build a better world?

151 Episodes
“What is that instinct that might be asking me to do something really unadvisable or radical or leap outside the bounds of my own life? And that's the space by which I think we move forward in life. And that's the space in which I think we move forward honestly on the page and in writing. And I tell people, you know, what is it that you want to explore in your writing? Like the page is this beautiful opportunity to start taking some big risks, whether it's persona poetry, where you're literally writing in a different voice, or you're naming something that cannot be held in any other space available to you, or you're testing out just an idea that you're not ready to say out loud. The page is this really beautiful field that gives us a lot of courage to then apply that, I think, to our actual lives.” So says Joy Sullivan, the author of Instructions for Traveling West, which is a guidebook of poems for letting your life fall apart and remake itself as something new. In our conversation, Joy and I explore her early life: how she grew up in Africa, the child of medical missionaries, bound tight by evangelicalism and purity culture—and her relationship to religion and faith now that she’s left that behind. Eve is a central figure in Joy’s poetry, and you will hear why.  MORE FROM JOY SULLIVAN: Instructions for Traveling West Follow Joy on Instagram Joy’s Newsletter, “Necessary Salt” Joy’s Website To learn more about listener data and our privacy practices visit: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Million Dollar Advice is a work and career advice podcast hosted by friends and colleagues Kim Lessing and Kate Arend. Together Kim and Kate run Amy Poehler’s Paper Kite Productions and are very cool and good at their jobs. Each week, they help live callers with their work-related dilemmas. Whether you have a question or you just like listening to other people’s problems, this show will change your life. If you have a problem at work or a career question big or small, write in to or leave a message on the Million Dollar Advice Hotline (888) 799-6327. Kim and Kate can’t wait to give you some Million Dollar Advice! To learn more about listener data and our privacy practices visit: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
“You want to find yourself? Give. We're not hungry for what we're not getting. We're hungry for what we're not giving. And then at the same time, you watch this old pattern of guarding what you have and of watching your mother take the leftovers and your mother taking leftover food and taking the piece of cake that broke in half while it was being served and taking the lesser car and taking whatever time is left for her to get her needs met. And so, you know, all truth is a paradox. And that's really what I believe is that I really, really give, but because I'm healing the codependence, I'm healing the self doubt, I'm giving from a place that is abundant because I live in gratitude. I notice how much I have been poured into, crazy love from a number of different directions. And I give that away. I don't give from my place of deprivation.” So says Anne Lamott, the eternally wise, prescient, and deeply human writer so many of us wish we could call in times of need. Anne is the author of 20 books—yes 20—including the New York Times bestsellers, Help, Thanks, Wow; Dusk, Night, Dawn; Traveling Mercies; and Bird by Bird, which is essential reading for every writer. I refer to and cite her advice all the time. Anne is also a Guggenheim Fellow. Her latest book—and the subject of today’s conversation is Somehow: Thoughts on Love that revolves around the William Blake line: We are here to learn to endure the beams of love—and how hard this is.  MORE FROM ANNE LAMOTT: Somehow: Thoughts on Love Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life Dusk, Night, Dawn: On Revival & Courage Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith Follow Anne on Instagram To learn more about listener data and our privacy practices visit: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
“From my perspective, one of the reasons we tell stories is it helps give us a sense of who we are, we use stories to affirm our identity. And that's part of the reason why we don't actually like to call them stories, because if we call them stories, and we begin to see that the self is actually rooted in construction, made up interpreted reality, it can be very threatening to us and to our sense of who would I be without this story. And so that's one of the things that I really love about this is you can begin to see that my sense of self has to change, if I'm willing to look at my stories, what is going to happen is my sense of who I am is going to change.” So says Courtney Smith, a coach, facilitator, and dear friend who is schooled and trained in many different modalities: Conscious Leadership Group, Byron Katie’s work, the Alexander Technique, and the Enneagram. She is one of my favorite thought partners because of the range of her intelligence and the structure of her mind: She was a math econ major who happens to have a J.D. from Yale and a masters in public health from NYU. Before taking a turn toward the mystical, she was a McKinsey consultant. So in short, she’s a multi-hyphenate Renaissance woman whose bookshelf looks much like mine. You might remember Courtney from our conversation on Pulling the Thread about the Enneagram—if you missed it, there’s a link in the show notes—but today, we’re going to talk about Stephen Karpman’s Drama Triangle: What it is, how to know when you’re in it, and how to move past it…while recognizing that you’ll be in another one soon enough. We also do a little bit of live coaching and role-playing, so you all will really get a sense of how this powerful tool works.  Meanwhile, if you want to work with me and Courtney, together, we’re hosting a workshop from May 17-19 at the Art of Living Retreat Center in Boone, North Carolina. It’s called “Choosing Wholeness Over Goodness” and will be a combination of On Our Best Behavior and Courtney’s techniques. Honestly, I can’t wait—I hope you’ll all join us. The link to sign up is also in the episode page, or the link in bio on my Instagram account, @ eliseloehnen.  MORE FROM COURTNEY SMITH: My Workshop with Courtney at AOLRC: “Choosing Wholeness Over Goodness” First Pulling the Thread episode: “The Practical Magic of the Enneagram” Courtney’s Website ALSO MENTIONED: The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leaders Elise’s Substack Newsletters: Ending the Manel The Perception (and Reality) of Scarcity Who Gets to Be an Expert? To learn more about listener data and our privacy practices visit: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
“I think historically we have always seen that intergenerational partnership is the way that movements grow and expand and the way people feel resilient about what they're trying to accomplish. The first defeat as a young person, when you feel your morals are on the line, your sense of justice is on the line, that is such a devastating blow and you really need people who've been doing this work for a long time to say, yeah, you're right. That's how that feels. It sucks. It hurts so bad. And this is how, when it happened to me, I got up again and I kept fighting. There is no future for progress without that kind of perspective. You need the fiery engagement of young people and you need the sense of history and the sense of perspective that older people can provide.” So says Mattie Kahn, a prolific writer whose work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and more. Mattie was also the culture director at Glamour and a staff editor at Elle. Today, she joins me to talk about her book, Young and Restless: The Girls Who Sparked America’s Revolutions, which is a much-needed survey of young female voices who were and are often at the heart of political movements, whether it was bus boycotts, strikes at mills, or the environmental movement unfolding today. This isn’t just a book about ensuring that the names of these girls are preserved by history, though, this is an examination of why girls are frequently so central to social change, and what it is about their often-precocious voices that can capture the attention of the nation. This, of course, is a double-edged sword, as Mattie’s work explores how quickly we dump these girls, or move on, once they turn into angry women. Today, we also talk about what’s happening on campuses and what a container might look like to hold dialogue, debate, and discourse. MORE FROM MATTIE KAHN: Young and Restless: The Girls Who Sparked America’s Revolutions Mattie’s Website Follow Mattie on Instagram To learn more about listener data and our privacy practices visit: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
“Part of middle life is that hopefully there's a little bit of wisdom there. And I think that is part of what we gain as we go through this journey of life is that there is wisdom that's accrued, which allows us to exist a little bit more in the complexity and nuance of things. I believe so much of this work is that we have to hold grace and compassion. And we also have to hold ownership and accountability and responsibility. And I feel that way, right? It's like, okay, if there's something that happened in our childhood or something happened in our teenage years, something that happened in our twenties, right? It's hard to process those things really early on. And especially when we're younger and really immature, because the lens is so narrow. I think as we grow and hopefully as we get wiser, that the lens opens.” So says Vienna Pharaon, a therapist whose practice centers around helping individuals—and couples—identify old patterns, patterns that often belong to the family system, that have them by the throat. And then, of course, she helps people break them and find new stories for how they show up in the world. Vienna is the host of the podcast, This Keeps Happening and the author of the national bestseller The Origins of You: How Breaking Family Patterns Can Liberate the Way We Live and Love, where she outlines the main themes that she sees in her practice. There is much in these pages to which we can all relate, as she articulates five core, original wounds that revolve around worthiness, belonging, trust, safety, and prioritization. Sound familiar?  MORE FROM VIENNA PHARAON: The Origins of You: How Breaking Family Patterns Can Liberate the Way We Live and Love Vienna’s Website Vienna’s Podcast: “This Keeps Happening” Follow Vienna on Instagram To learn more about listener data and our privacy practices visit: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
“It's important to realize that yes, menopause can come with symptoms, but the symptoms are not alien symptoms. We've seen them before. We've seen them at puberty. We've seen them at pregnancy, if you've been pregnant. We've been there before. And I like to say that menopause is just another tune that we learn to dance to, right? We can do it. We will navigate it. The point is let's make sure that we have the right information, that we understand how it works and that we're aware of the solutions because there are so many women who decide how to navigate menopause based on information that is not unfortunately accurate, it is not up to date. So a lot of decisions are really based on fear rather than facts and then there's regret.” So says neuroscientist Lisa Mosconi, PhD, who currently has 11 grants—including four from the NIH—to study Alzheimers, menopause, and the female brain. Dr. Mosconi is an Associate Professor of Neuroscience in Neurology and Radiology at Weill Cornell Medicine (WCM), and the Director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Program at WCM/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. The program includes the Women’s Brain Initiative, the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic, and the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinical Trials Unit.  There are many things to love about Dr. Mosconi and her work—one, that she’s focused on an underserved group, i.e. women, but also because her insights dramatically expand the way we’ve been conditioned to understand these hormonal shifts in our lives. The picture she paints of the female brain is not only fascinating, but it’s inspiring: As we age and move through stages, our brains continually remodel, becoming leaner, meaner, and more empathic. The female brain is…formidable. There are also many things we can do to make these turbulent transitions slightly smoother sailing, which we dive into throughout our conversation. Let’s turn to it now. MORE FROM LISA MOSCONI, PhD: The Menopause Brain: New Science Empowers Women to Navigate the Pivotal Transition with Knowledge and Power The XX Brain: The Groundbreaking Science Empowering Women to Maximize Cognitive Health and Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease Brain Food: The Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive Power Lisa’s Website Follow Lisa on Instagram To learn more about listener data and our privacy practices visit: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
“Historically, there's no such thing as a pure tradition. And I also think as human beings, we transcend these religions and we transcend these cultures. And so the cherry picking is an affirmation of our transcendence. It's like, no, you are more than your religious tradition. You are more than your culture. You are more than your body. And you are also your body and your religion and your culture. Yes, yes, yes, all that. But you are also more. So I think, again, the power of the modern period is that we're all so super connected and in communication with everything that we know that, we know that in a way that we didn't know that, you know, four or five-hundred years ago.” So says Jeffrey Kripal, who holds the J. Newton Rayzor Chair in Philosophy and Religious Thought at Rice University. Jeff is the author of many, many, many books that span a massive academic career—books on Kali, books on Gnosticism, and books on supernatural phenomena. He’s also the author of a short and immensely readable book called The Flip: Who You Really Are and Why it Matters, which is the focus of our conversation today. As an academic and historian of comparative religion, Jeff writes and speaks beautifully about the way that we’re losing our collective stories, and the way that we’re splitting ourselves apart, divided between the sciences and the humanities. In The Flip, Jeff recounts how both science and spirituality are using different languages to explain and explore the same experiences, and what emerges when “The Flip” happens, those often mystical moments when the minds of scientists across time have cracked open to see the world in a different way. I loved this book and I love Jeff’s wide-ranging and yet imminently approachable and kind mind—I hope you enjoy listening to this conversation as much as I enjoyed having it. MORE FROM JEFFREY KRIPAL: The Flip: Who You Really Are and Why it Matters The Superhumanities: Historical Precedents, Moral Objections, New Realities Jeff’s Website To learn more about listener data and our privacy practices visit: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Hi, it’s Elise Loehnen, host of PULLING THE THREAD. Today, it’s just me. I’m sharing five things I’ve been thinking about a lot—from understanding how to quantify and charge for one’s time, what to consider before starting a new creative project, and the art of a gentle no. I’m also answering some of your questions—about judgment, sanity, and the etymology of “should.” THINGS I REFERENCE: “Your vibration must be higher than what you create, otherwise you cannot manage it.” “The Construct of Time” The Matter With Things, by Iain McGilchrist Practicing the Gentle No What is Intuition? MORE FROM ME: On Our Best Behavior: The Seven Deadly Sins and the Price Women Pay to Be Good My Substack Newsletter My Instagram Solo Episode 1: What We’re After Solo Episode 2: Five Things I’ve Learned This Year To learn more about listener data and our privacy practices visit: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
“Turquoise is looking for how do we bring back the village? How do we live in community again? Why are we living in these separate houses? We're not sharing resources. Everyone on the street has a snowblower, a lawnmower, you know, like the design isn't elegant, it's not an elegant design. And so I think the mind of yellow joins into turquoise and as it has studied systems, it contributes to that and we are looking for more holistic, elegant solutions to give birth to a new culture. It's like we can no longer continue down the path. And at turquoise, we are going to have to sacrifice for the whole.” For those of you who follow me on Instagram or read my newsletter on Substack, you’ll know that I’ve been quite obsessed with Spiral Dynamics of late, and see it as one way to explain our current cultural and political dilemmas, along with so much of our internalized anxiety. It was first developed by the late professor Clare Graves, who was a contemporary and colleague of Abraham Maslow, and then advanced by professor Don Beck, who worked on post-Apartheid South Africa with Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk, and then further pushed by integral philosopher Ken Wilber. Spiral Dynamics can be heady stuff, and so I was thrilled when Nicole Churchill, a wonderfully grounded therapist and expert in Spiral Dynamics, offered to talk through the system with me for the podcast. Nicole and her husband John Churchill, who has also been a guest on Pulling the Thread, studied with Ken Wilber, and both apply it in their therapy work with both individuals and organizations. If you all end up loving Spiral Dynamics as much as I do, Nicole has offered to come back and explore how she uses it in therapy—please pass this episode on to any friends who you think might enjoy. I’m convinced that there are some keys here that can help us see the world and ourselves more clearly. In the show notes, you’ll find ways to go deeper as well.  MORE FROM NICOLE CHURCHILL: Nicole’s websites: Samadhi Institute and Karuna Mandela John Churchill’s episode on Pulling the Thread: “Our Collective Psychological Development” MORE ON SPIRAL DYNAMICS: My Substack Newsletter: “Finding Ourselves on the Spiral” Spiral Dynamics Integral, by Don Beck Integral Psychology: Consciousness, Spirit, Psychology, Therapy, by Ken Wilber Spiral Dynamics, by Don Beck and Chris Cowan Trump and a Post-Truth World, by Ken Wilber To learn more about listener data and our privacy practices visit: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
“When I went back and looked at some of these shows that I loved, I noticed that the writer's room was all adult men with the exception of one or two episodes in Saved by the Bell's case. And I just thought, wow, it is so interesting that we talk about diversity and representation, like yes, of course, who's on the screen matters, but who's in the writer's room and who's telling the stories really matters too, because that's where stereotypes abound. Because those men were not writing Jesse Spano as an example of an actual feminist. She was written as a character from an adult male's response to like second wave feminist stereotypes. And they found that type of woman irritating, so they wrote Jessie as an irritating character. And it just was an interesting thing for me to explore the way I internalized themes from pop culture thinking about who was writing this and when did it contribute to a stereotype versus when did it communicate an authentic experience.” So says Kate Kennedy, a brilliantly astute historian of millennial culture, which she explores, in depth in One in a Millenial: On Friendship, Feelings, Fangirls, and Fitting in, a bestselling book that’s part memoir, but really a love letter and a critique of the culture so many of us grew up in. As part of my book tour I went on Kate’s podcast, Be There in Five, where I was immediately taken by her intelligence and deep, deep knowledge of the programming that shaped our consciousness, from Jessie Spano’s feminism in Saved by the Bell—and the laugh track it inspired—to the way so many women and girls were taught that our interests were dumb, shallow, and silly. Or, to use the parlance of the day: Basic. In One in a Millenial, Kennedy points to this long tradition of the veneration of action figures, Marvel, and football—and the deprecation of pretty much anything that girls and women value, whether it’s romance novels, the Spice Girls, or American Girl Dolls. While her point is not new—and certainly aligned with our summer of the Barbie movie, Taylor Swift, and Beyoncé—her exploration of how it shaped her own mind in childhood, and the way she experiences herself now as a result of it, is revelatory, and something we explore in today’s conversation. MORE FROM KATE KENNEDY: One in a Millenial: On Friendship, Feelings, Fangirls, and Fitting in Be There in Five Podcast Kate’s Website Instagram: Follow Kate and Be there in Five To learn more about listener data and our privacy practices visit: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
“The deal is your bodies are going to change over time and people can stay attracted to somebody's body over time, even though it is unrecognizable from what it was like when they first met because that body is the home of a human they adore our attraction to a person's body can be just like superficial something like your toenails are gross, or it can be here is the human whose life I have shared in our home for all these years and like their belly and their bum and their varicose veins and their scar from the surgery that saved their life all of it is so fucking hot because this is my person.” So says Emily Nagoski, one of the most exceptional minds at work today on the science—and she would add, art—of sexual connection, intimacy, and arousal. Emily is brilliant and she’s also deeply human, using her own experiences in the world as the foundational ground for exploring relationship: This means that she’s not full of heady theory and diagnoses, but focused on what actually works to fuel desire—and bring it to fruition. She’s the author of the mega bestselling Come as You Are, as well as a book called Burnout about the stress cycle that she co-authored with her twin sister, and now she brings us Come Together: The Science (and Art!) of Creating Lasting Sexual Connections, which is the natural evolution. While Come as You Are is a primer on how we all function as sexual creatures, Come Together explores what happens when you bring that into relationship—and try to establish and maintain a connection that can endure through seasons of, well, low interest.  She is full of ideas, principles, and methods for getting it going—including a core blueprint for determining what rooms are adjacent to your desire. I loved this book, I love Emily, and I loved our conversation. MORE FROM THE EMILY NAGOSKI: Come Together: The Science (and Art!) of Creating Lasting Sexual Connections Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life Watch Emily’s TED Talk Emily’s Website Follow Emily on Instagram To learn more about listener data and our privacy practices visit: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
“Every single human being is a pack animal. That's what we are biologically. We would die if we didn't depend on each other. Saying what you need is a form of connecting with your partner and saying, let's be a team. Can you serve me in this way? Can I trust you to have my back? Because I've got yours. And I want to be there for you. The other thing that people don't realize is that when they ask their partner for something they need, what they're doing is saying to the partner, you are my chosen one. You are my confidant. You are the person I trust more than anybody to be there for me. And the other person may feel very honored by that, actually. What that person is saying is you are trustworthy. You are the person that I know has the strength and the resources to be there for me.” Doctors John and Julie Gottman are two of the most famous and popular couples therapists in the world—not only because of their ability to impart relationship-saving and relationship-strengthening advice, but because of John Gottman’s decades of reearch in the so called “Love Lab,” where he observed couples over time and could predict—with a dizzying level of success—who was destined to divorce. In short, the Gottmans are the world’s leading relationship scientists, having gathered data on thousands of couples—they then use those findings to train clinicians and create simple principles for couples around the world. In their latest book, Fight Right, they explore conflict—something we’re all trained to avoid at all costs. Their point though, which their research supports, is that conflict is essential for healthy relationships, clearing out the brush of stagnant resentments and deepening bonds. In today’s conversation, we explore everything from fighting styles—there’s avoiders, validators, and volatiles—along with our tendency to start conflict harshly because we feel like we need a lot of ammo to justify the rupture and make our point. And then we move to modes and paths of repair, along with what their latest research can tell us about infidelity and its root cause. I loved this conversation, which we’ll turn to now. MORE FROM JOHN & JULIE GOTTMAN: Fight Right: How Successful Couples Turn Conflict into Connection The Love Prescription: Seven Days to More Intimacy, Connection, and Joy The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work The Gottman Institute: A Research-Based Approach to Relationships Gottman Relationship Quiz: How Well Do You Know Your Partner? Find a Gottman Trained Therapist Follow the Gottman Institute on Twitter and Instagram To learn more about listener data and our privacy practices visit: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
“I think there's a lot of assumptions in play here that a good body is a thin one, a thin body is achievable, a thin body is achievable for everyone, and that you will be fully in control of your health and your mortality if you're thin, which is also just of course a myth. There are plenty of fat, healthy, happy people, and there are plenty of sadly unhealthy, thin people who should not be regarded as any more or less worthy than a fat person who suffers from a similar health condition. These people should be receiving, in most cases, just the same treatment. And yet, for the fat person who suffers from the same health condition, the prescription is weight loss, whereas for the thin person, they're given often closer to adequate medical care.” So says, moral philosopher and Cornell professor Kate Manne, one of those brilliant and insightful observers of culture working today. She’s the author of two incredible books about misogyny—Entitled: How Male Privilege Hurts Women and Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny—and has coined mainstream terms like “himpathy,” her word for the way we afford our sympathy to the male aggressor rather than the female victim. The example she uses is the trial of Brock Turner, the Stanford swimmer who sexually assaulted Chanel Miller, and the way the judge and the media seemed more concerned about Turner’s sullied future than Miller’s experience and recovery. Her newest book is just as essential: It’s called Unshrinking: How to Face Fatphobia and it explores Manne’s own experience of being a fat woman in our unabiding culture. If you read the Gluttony chapter of On Our Best Behavior, some of the material she explores will be familiar—but in Kate Manne style, she drives it all the way home. I love this conversation, which we’ll turn to now. MORE FROM KATE MANNE: Unshrinking: How to Face Fatphobia Entitled: How Male Privilege Hurts Women Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny Follow Kate Manne on Twitter Kate Website Kate’s Newsletter To learn more about listener data and our privacy practices visit: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
“I think that with regulation, the funny thing is that it's either I want to control the weather around my children, or I want to control my children, but regulation is very much a self thing for adults and a co regulation thing between you and other, especially you and a young person whose brain isn't fully able to self regulate. But if you're so focused on controlling all these outside things that you can't, like the weather, then you get to let yourself off the hook of getting into the much harder, but more possible work of self regulation and of figuring out your own stuff. And all of that has much bigger benefits to your kids, of course, than making the weather perfect around them, but it just is harder. Even though it shouldn't be so easy to change the weather, but it does appear that is what happens, right?”  So says Aliza Pressman, development psychologist and Assistant Clinical Professor in the Division of Behavioral Health Department of Pediatrics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital where she is co-founding director of The Mount Sinai Parenting Center. Aliza is also the host of the hit podcast, Raising Good Humans, and the author of The Five Principles of Parenting: Your Essential Guide to Raising Good Humans. I love Aliza for many reasons: Yes, we all want friends who are developmental psychologists on speed-dial, but she’s also different in the way she delivers advice. For one, she cuts right to the point, reminding and reaffirming that while yes, every family has its own complicating factors, the basic tenets of raising good humans are simple. You don’t need your own PhD in parenting to do the job, nor do you need a PhD to re-parent yourself, you need to focus on the elements she outlines in The Five Principles of Parenting: Your Essential Guide to Raising Good Humans: Relationship, Reflection, Regulation, Rules, and Repair. As she explains, through practice and normalizing imperfection, along the way you’ll discover the person you’re ultimately raising is yourself. By becoming more intentional people, we become better parents. By becoming better parents, we become better people. In today’s conversation, we touch on these tenets while also exploring the particular social world we find ourselves in, one in which there seems to be an expectation that we can and should control the weather for our kids.  MORE FROM ALIZA PRESSMAN, PhD: The Five Principles of Parenting: Your Essential Guide to Raising Good Humans Raising Good Humans Podcast Aliza’s Website Follow Aliza on Instagram Aliza’s Newsletter To learn more about listener data and our privacy practices visit: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
"How do we center the voices that traditionally and historically we know existed, but were only marginalized in the tradition? And that does feel like holy work. And for me, in part, when I encountered a tradition that was so driven by male stories and male voices, I felt so alienated by it when I first began to encounter it. And I had this moment, which I think lots of women faith leaders have, which is maybe this just isn't for me. I mean, I'm not intended to ever even read these texts, let alone teach these texts. And then I had an awakening where I realized, not only is it meant for me, but I have an obligation. It was waiting for me. It's waiting for me and for so many more people because there's a void until our voices enter this space." So says Rabbi Sharon Brous, a wise and wonderful friend, and the founder and senior rabbi of IKAR, a Jewish community founded to attend to critical questions. As Rabbi Brous writes in her beautiful new book The Amen Effect: Ancient Wisdom to Mend Our Broken Hearts and World , “How can our Jewish tradition help us live lives of meaning and purpose? And: Given our faith and history, who are we called to be in this time of moral crisis? We launched IKAR—our best attempt to address those questions—on a hope and a prayer, with no funding, no space, and no business plan. What we had was a shared conviction that faith communities needed to be spiritually alive and morally courageous at the same time.”  I read Sharon’s beautiful book last summer, and could not wait to talk to her about it. So we recorded our conversation early, before the Jewish High Holidays, at the beginning of August, months before October 7th. Rabbi Brous’s work in general is highly prophetic and brave—she has been a fierce and vocal critic of the increasingly right wing Israeli government, even as many Rabbis try to steer clear of politics. This conversation, which is not about Israel, is also highly prophetic and brave: It’s about the dire need for interfaith conversation, for chipping away at the calcified belief structures of religions that don’t fully serve our broken world, and for being with each other, particularly on our most painful days. This, in fact, is the theme of The Amen Effect, which is about an ancient mishnah, or overlooked piece of Jewish law that instructs us on the sacred act of circling—and tending, face-to-face, to each other’s agony and grief. In today’s conversation Sharon and I also talk about social justice and responsibility, a conversation that I’m hoping to pick back up with her in the new year, as so many of us feel a little lost and confused. While Rabbi Brous and I thought about doing a second episode as a fast follow, we decided to wait a beat—if you want to hear her talk about Israel and Gaza, I highly recommend you listen to her conversation with Ezra Klein, where the two talk about how some of Israel’s actions are indefensible even as Israel itself must be defended. Her sermons are also stunning, and available on the IKAR website.  I think Rabbi Brous is incredible, and I’m not alone. She offered the blessing at both Biden and Obama’s inaugurations, and led Hannukah at the White House this year. She manages to teach and model what so many of us need to learn how to do: We must learn how to hold each other close even through disagreement, disappointment, and despair. The Amen Effect offers some ideas for how this work might begin. MORE FROM RABBI SHARON BROUS: The Amen Effect: Ancient Wisdom to Mend Our Broken Hearts and World  IKAR’s Website To learn more about listener data and our privacy practices visit: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
“If you have a reaction to a stranger or someone in the media or someone in politics or someone who's just providing this kind of blank slate because you don't really know him or her, then it's a projection. And yes, there's often a sensation in the body that's negative. It could be fear, it could be distrust, it could be disgust, right? And then there's the flip side. There's positive projection, which happens in the spiritual universe a lot. When someone is looking for a charismatic leader, then they're going to project their own awakening, their own compassion, their own wisdom onto the leader, the clergy person. So the content of the projection can be anything, what we view as negative, what we view as positive.” So says Connie Zweig, a Jungian therapist and author who has focused much of her career exploring and teasing out the implications of the shadow, which is how Carl Jung referred to the unconscious. Chances are that you’ve been hearing more and more about shadow work—it’s having a moment—in part, I’m convinced, because it’s a concept whose time has come. As I’ve written about a lot in my Substack newsletter, we are swimming in collective shadow, unable and unwilling to process our share of it. When we don’t take on this unconscious material, or darkness, our tendency is to project it onto other people and groups, to get away from it as quickly as possible. But, of course, it doesn’t work like that—our shadow is ours. It’s our blind spot. When we’re willing to face our shadow, to access it, to allow it to emerge, we often find that it’s full of gold. In fact, Jung believed that the shadow is the source of all of our energy, the main mechanism for growth—ask anyone who has gone through hard or dark times and they will likely tell you that the experience propelled them forward in unexpected ways, often for the better.  Connie and I explore all of these concepts and then some, as she’s one of the most prodigious writers in the space. She co-authored Meeting the Shadow and Romancing the Shadow, which are essential anthologies and texts, and then more recently wrote Meeting the Shadow on the Spiritual Path, which explores what happens when the shadow, or darkness, is unresolved in spiritual and religious communities. She’s also the author of The Inner Work of Age: Shifting from Role to Soul, which is an exploration of the shadow of aging in our ageist culture. I’m hoping she comes back to the podcast soon so we can discuss that book at length.  MORE FROM CONNIE ZWEIG, PHD: The Inner Work of Age: Shifting from Role to Soul Meeting the Shadow on the Spiritual Path: The Dance of Darkness and Light in Our Search for Awakening Romancing the Shadow: A Guide to Soul Work for a Vital, Authentic Life Meeting the Shadow: The Hidden Power of the Dark Side of Human Nature A Moth to the Flame: The Life of the Sufi Poet Rumi Connie Zweig’s Website To learn more about listener data and our privacy practices visit: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Today, it’s just me. I thought I’d round out the year by trying something different, and offering five big things I’ve learned this year. THINGS I REFERENCE: Owning Our Wanting, Wants vs. Needs Transactional Relationships & Shadow Vows Undoing the Drama Triangle, Are You Victim, Villain, or Hero? Facts vs. Stories Transcend and Include To learn more about listener data and our privacy practices visit: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
“Nobody wants to be somebody with a serious substance use problem. Nobody wants to be addicted to a substance. I mean, it doesn't feel good. Dependency doesn't feel good. And we end up in there anyway, right? So I think if we can bring compassion and understanding to, wow, it must really be working in a way that's really powerful for them to keep pursuing it. And then you've got the physical effects of substances, right? So then our bodies physically get dependent, you know, so it starts out as like, it's probably working for an emotional or something in our life and then we become physically dependent on it. And then it's a whole nother host of things in terms of how do you stop it? And people don't fully understand treatment in terms of there's medications available.” So says Carrie Wilkens, PhD, a psychologist who is attempting to change the way we think about and address recovery and treatment—specifically by simply presenting evidence for what motivates change. AFter all, she is the co-president and CEO of CMC: Foundation for Change, a not-for-profit with the mission of improving the dissemination of evidence-based ideas and strategies to professionals and loved ones of persons struggling with substance use.  As you’ll hear in this conversation—and throughout the entire series—we have not collectively been served by the mono-myth of addiction, that it’s only solved through harsh intervention and confrontation, that addicted people must hit rock-bottom, and that any involvement from concerned family and friends is inherently co-dependent or enabling. As Dr. Wilkins explains, this simply isn’t true: In fact, evidence overwhelmingly suggests that harsh confrontation and intervention works AGAINST recovery, and that there is a very specific and meaningful role for family to play in what can often feel like a family illness. The CMC:FFC team’s Invitation to Change approach is an accessible set of understandings and practices that empower families to remain engaged and be effective in helping their struggling loved one make positive changes. The approach has been widely used across the country and is utilized in trainings with laypeople and professionals.  She is co-author of the award-winning book Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change, a practical guide for families dealing with addiction and substance problems in a loved one based on principles of Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT), and co-author of The Beyond Addiction Workbook for Family and Friends: Evidence-Based Skills to Help a Loved-One Make Positive Change. Dr. Wilkens is also the Co-Founder and Clinical Director of the Center for Motivation and Change, a group of clinicians serving all ages in NYC, Long Island, Washington, DC, San Diego, CA, and CMC:Berkshires, a private, inpatient/residential program for adults. Dr. Wilkens has been a Project Director on a large federally-funded Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grant addressing the problems associated with binge drinking among college students. And she is a member of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies and the American Association of Addiction Psychiatrists. MORE FROM CARRIE WILKINS: Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change The Beyond Addiction Workbook for Family & Friends CMC: Foundation for Change Further Listening on Pulling the Thread: PART 1: Holly Whitaker, “Reimagining Recovery” PART 2: Carl Erik Fisher, M.D., “Breaking the Addiction Binary” PART 3: Maia Szalavitz, “When Abstinence-Only Approaches Fail” ADDICTION: Anna Lembke, M.D., “Navigating an Addictive Culture” TRAUMA: Gabor Maté, M.D., “When Stress Becomes Illness” BINGE EATING DISORDER: Susan Burton, “Whose Pain Counts?” To learn more about listener data and our privacy practices visit: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
“I think what's interesting about healing, psychological healing, is there's always a narrative that helps. So sometimes when you go to therapy, and you tell a story, and in the story, you locate your despair, and it's a knot, and then with the therapist, you work through the knot, you feel better. And was all the pain really attendant to that knot? Or did you just kind of load up that knot with some of the despair that comes from being alive and then you kind of work through it and that story helps you live life better. And I think that's true also this idea of how we look at the different personality states and we can name them and we can give them ages and it's a story that helps us understand ourselves.” So says Akiva Goldsman, an Oscar, Golden Globe, and WGA-Award winning screenwriter whose credits include A Beautiful Mind, The Client, Batman Forever, A Time to Kill, Practical Magic, Cinderella Man, I Am Legend, The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons, Insurgent, and I, Robot. He’s on Pulling the Thread today, though, to talk about Apple TV+’s The Crowded Room, a psychological thriller starring Tom Holland and Amanda Seyfried on which he was both the writer and the showrunner. So first, some warnings: Yes, there are spoilers, though in my opinion, nothing that will markedly change your experience of watching the show. In fact, knowing the back story made it easier for me to get through the first, very stressful episode. (It gets easier, and by episode three, I was riveted.) And also, a trigger warning: The Crowded Room and our conversation today explore childhood sexual abuse, which is also part of Akiva’s personal history. MORE FROM AKIVA GOLDSMAN: “The Crowded Room” on Apple TV+ To learn more about listener data and our privacy practices visit: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Comments (3)

Habia Khet


Feb 5th


sorry. Your guest lost me at saying understanding your chart means realizing there's cosmic reasons and it wasn't your parents. My childhood trauma says otherwise. I can heal and forgive them for other reasons. I can see people with compassion and not judge for other reasons. and it isn't some external influence of the heavens or. God or whatever. External reasons are crutches. It's too easy for people to say it's my chart is and never do the real internal work to grow. We grow from within because of how we deal with all the inputs to our various senses (including the senses science is just beginning to understand). We don't grow if we end up in limited thinking due to astrology or religion.

Oct 12th

Jacqui du-Buisson

This episode was so impactful. Thank you once again for your vulnerability Elise. You are an expert at it 😊😘

Sep 21st
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