Today's Guest: Dr. John Gray
Today, I interview Dr. John Gray. In John’s family there were lots of siblings, and there was lots of love. However, his mother clearly had a sweet spot for John and favored him a little. In turn, his siblings expressed their jealousy by picking on and torturing him. He learned to stay alert, but this meant he was always on edge and quite afraid.
John’s fear wasn’t really recognized or discussed in his family until a concerned aunt pointed it out to him when he was still pretty young. So he became aware that he had an issue with fear but didn’t yet understand how to work through it. John felt very loved by his parents. He says that by the time he came along, his parents realized that things like spankings and other punishments hadn’t worked on his older siblings. They decided not to punish him in the same way and just to “leave him in the hands of God.” This added to the growing jealousy of his siblings, and their anger was another source of intimidation, keeping John from building – or even using – his voice. On the other hand, John’s mother supported all of his ideas and encouraged him to keep learning and figuring out life. She would later add a wing onto her bookstore to house and sell all of the books he would write.
At the age of 19, John became the youngest teacher of Transcendental Meditation. During his first lecture, he was so nervous he fainted. But he was so passionate about TM, he decided to keep working at it, trying to overcome his anxiety. Then he found Improv. Instead of focusing on a speech and feeling like everyone was there to judge any misstep, he felt like a cloud lifted when his improv peers supported him and cheered him on for his creativity. In this welcome and safe space, he was able to begin to release his fears and move forward. Today, his thoughts and ideas are known internationally, and his voice has changed the lives of thousands.
Dr. Gray has written over 20 books. His most recent book is Beyond Mars and Venus: Relationship Skills for Our Complex Modern World. His Mars/Venus book series has changed the way men and women view their relationships. John helps men and women better understand and respect their differences in both personal and professional relationships. His approach combines specific communication techniques with healthy, nutritional choices that create the brain and body chemistry for lasting health, happiness, and romance.
His many books, blogs, and free online workshops at MarsVenus.com provide practical insights to improve relationships at all stages of life and love. An advocate of health and optimal brain function, he also provides natural solutions for overcoming depression, anxiety, and stress to support increased energy, libido, hormonal balance, and better sleep.
He has appeared repeatedly on Oprah, as well as on The Dr. Oz Show, TODAY, CBS This Morning, Good Morning America, and others. He has been profiled in Time, Forbes, USA Today, and People. He was also the subject of a three-hour special hosted by Barbara Walters. John Gray lives in Northern California where for 34 years he happily shared his life with his beautiful wife, Bonnie, until her passing in 2018. They have three grown daughters and four grandchildren. He is an avid follower of his own health and relationship advice.
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Transcript of Interview
Transcript of Interview
Find Your Voice, Change Your Life Podcast
Podcast Host: Dr. Doreen Downing
Free Guide to Fearless Speaking: Doreen7steps.com
Episode #66 Dr. John Gray
“Identifying What’s Happening Inside”
00:35) Dr. Doreen Downing
Hi, I’m Dr. Doreen Downing and I’m a psychologist and host of the Find Your Voice, Change Your Life podcast. I get to invite guests here who have a history and some knowledge of what it means to not have a voice. And many of them like our guest today have found their voice and share it worldwide. I’m so happy to have you here today. And this is Dr. John Gray.
(01:03) Dr. John Gray
Yes, I’m so happy to be with you. Clearly finding your voice is one of my favorite subjects. Because what could I do if I didn’t have my voice?
(01:12) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yes. Well, there you go. We’re already off and running on where we’re going to go and talk about today. But I’d like to say just a few things I’m sure people know about you. But wow. You are the author of the most well-known and trusted relationship book of all time, and that’s how they how they rate it, of all time, John, “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.” And today, USA Today listed your book as one of the top 10 most influential books of the last quarter century. Oh, you get to sit there with that kind of acknowledgement. And in addition to that though, you’ve written over 20 books. And I think the most recent one is, “Beyond Mars and Venus.”
(02:00) Dr. John Gray
“Beyond Mars and Venus.” I wrote Men Are From Mars, actually, 27 years ago. I’ve been teaching the idea for 40 years. But in the last 10 years, the society has dramatically changed. The challenges of our relationships are dramatically different. So in a sense, the updated Men are from Mars, I think it’s still necessary to read, but many women feel like they’re from Mars, and they kind of go my husband’s from Venus, what do we do? So that’s why I wrote this book Beyond Mars and Venus.
(02:29) Dr. Doreen Downing
Well, that says something about voice is also listening to what people are saying, and responding to that in a way that meets people’s needs to help them understand more. So that’s great. One last thing about you
(02:45) Dr. John Gray
I might add to what you just said, when talking about listening to what other people say, a lot of times, if we haven’t found our own voice, we hear what other people say, and we can be overly influenced by it. And that’s what’s happening today, when people are hypersensitive to feedback, somebody’s different. I can’t handle it. That’s actually because they don’t know how they are different within themselves and loving themselves that way. So we’ll be exploring that. I just love the whole theme of finding your voice.
(03:13) Dr. Doreen Downing
Wonderful. Well, I’m so privileged to have you on the Find Your Voice, Change Your Life podcast today. Because my goodness, you’ve been on Oprah, you’ve been on the Dr. Oz Show, Today, CBS This Morning. Wow, just all over the world. You are somebody who speaks up and shares exactly what it sounds like you’re already starting to share here on our podcast. So, welcome.
(03:40) Dr. John Gray
Thank you so much. A real pleasure to be with you, Doreen.
(03:43) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yes. So before I get into more of the contemporary, I’d like to start out with some history in your own life to get a little more personal, a little deeper into. I do understand that you grew up in Texas, I read a little bit about you. And apparently we share some Transcendental Meditation. So we could talk about that later. But just a little bit about your childhood and what your experience was, because early on is where we first speak up, right? And what does the world reflect back to us? Do they say, yeah, I hear you or do they tell you to shut up? Do they ignore you? So let’s start there.
(04:27) Dr. John Gray
Well, before I start there, I just want to put my life in context. As you mentioned, I do speak up. I have found my voice. But I didn’t always have it. And I would say you know, I became a TM teacher when I was 19 years old, the youngest TM teacher at that time. TM, Transcendental Meditation for those who don’t know. And my first talk, I gave the introductory lecture, I had so much nervousness, so much anxiety, my knees began to shake, and I fainted.
And the theme of the talk was, “Develop Your Full Mental Potential”. And they looked at me, they all thought I died. I mean, literally, if you see somebody faint when they’re standing up, it looks like they’re dying, the face turns white, whatever. I had so much anxiety about it and that anxiety stayed for a long time. So we’ll be talking about that today.
But I remember one of the things that happened to me at that time, because clearly, being a teacher, whether it be of TM, or Mars, Venus or whatever, as part of my mission, that’s one of my talents. And so there was a huge amount of anxiety because if I was to fail at being me, as opposed to somebody else, it’s more anxiety. And I remember thinking, maybe this is not right for me.
And right at that time, there was an interview I read in Rolling Stones magazine with John Lennon of The Beatles. And he said, the reason that they stopped touring, is because they had so much anxiety before performances. And I thought, well he can do it, I can do it. Just because you have anxiety doesn’t mean what you’re doing is not your mission, because clearly that was their mission.
However, he didn’t have the tools and techniques that you share, and I share to remove the anxiety. So your voice comes out pure and with confidence. And the Beatles didn’t have that and they only toured for three years, because there’s so much anxiety and craziness before those performances. Their fear of rejection and not being good enough and losing was so great. And there are now tools. Fortunately, it took me many years to figure them out, find them out, get the help I needed.
But now I have absolutely no anxiety. I remember I was doing the Carnegie Hall back at 1995, which was a very prestigious thing. It was sold out. There was a waiting list. The police were there because there were so many people trying to get in. It was a big event for me in my life during New York. And I was walking on stage and my sister, right before getting on stage, backstage while I’m walking to the stage, my sister says to me, “Are you nervous?” And I said, “No.” And then that moment, I felt this truth that came out as very sweet. It says, this is what I was born to do. And I can only help and wish for everybody that they can find their mission and purpose. And for me, a part of that journey has been being able to express what I think or communicate what’s true for me. And gradually over time, as I got the feedback that I was safe, and I was accepted not by everybody, but by some, my confidence came and we’ll go into more of those details. But now having said that, back to how did I become this highly confident, acknowledged speaker around the world?
(07:45) Dr. Doreen Downing
No, no, wait, at first, I want to know what led to you being such a scaredy cat at 19. Because somehow earlier in your life, you didn’t know how to stand on your two feet.
(07:53) Dr. John Gray
That’s exactly what I was going to go to. As a child, I have four older brothers, so you’re kind of waking up in a world where everybody knows a lot more than you and they’re saying things to you. And there was something unique in my childhood. That in itself always felt less than smaller than not able to, and so forth. But there was another twist to the whole thing for me, which was, it turns out, my mother loved me more. Now, that to me, was a silly thought. But when I became very successful. We were on a vacation with all my family and, they were saying, oh, you’re so successful, because mom loved you more. And I said, that’s ridiculous. That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard.
But my mother was still alive then. So here we are the family of seven children. We go over to my mother and I said, “Mom, everybody thinks you love me more.” And my mother, she’s sweet, sweet lady. She says, “I’ve done everything I can to love each of you equally. I love all of you. It’s just, Johnny, he makes you love him more.”
(09:02) Dr. Doreen Downing
Oh, what a great story. Oh my goodness.
That was one of the dynamics of my childhood which was a lot of love from my mother, which was very good, but simultaneously my brothers were jealous of me. So there’s a whole series of experiences of where they acted out, not all the time, but acted out their jealousy. One time they buried me under the ground, I had massive claustrophobia. Another time one of my brothers got punished by my dad for being a bad example for me. He would climb on the roof, my brother, and so my brother just comes in, slugs me in the stomach and without my knowing why or what, and it just knocked me out. He was a big guy. And then I was thrown off the roof.
Then another thing, we used to rake up the leaves in the summertime and in the fall you burn them. The world was a different place back then, just burned them in your front yard. And my brothers would pick me up and they’d swing me threatening to throw me into the fire and I’d be crying and screaming and then they let go and I go into the fire. I didn’t get seriously burned or anything. It was just the fear of that. Also a lot of misbehavior when you have unsupervised boys. And I’m the youngest. So there was a lot of fear inside of me, that I wasn’t really aware of as a child. I wasn’t even aware of that I had fear. Because children are not so emotionally intelligent to know what’s really going on unless somebody says you’re afraid.
There was a very traumatic event where the family went on a vacation, I was like, six years old, and my brothers were getting back at me. And I didn’t realize why they treated me this way. But they were all jealous. And my mother said, who wants to visit Aunt Aimee who was her sister in California. We grew up in Texas, and Aunt Aimee is a stranger to me. I was still sleeping in my mother’s bed. A lot of us would roll up in the bed at night. And my mother said, who wants to go? And my brother said, oh, Aunt Aimee lives across the street from Disneyland. And to all of us, Disneyland was like Mecca. Oh, we’re going to go to Disneyland, we’re going to go Disneyland. My brother said, I still remember whispering in my ear, Aunt Aimee lives across the street from Disneyland, everybody’s going to go. So I said, I’ll go. It turned out, I’m the only one who went and I stayed in Aunt Aimee’s house for a week, thinking I would, a child does these kinds of thinking, I would never get back to my family. I would never see my mother again.
And it wasn’t until the seventh day when the boys were teasing me, and Aunt Aimee said to me, “you need your mother,” and an adult saying that allowed me to realize, that’s what was bothering me. So I didn’t know. I mean, I was just sort of unhappy and unconscious, just not having a good time. And she said, I became hysterical. She said, she’d never seen a child become so hysterical, because she was an adult, identifying what was going on inside of me. And most of us growing up when we have traumas, we don’t have parents who are able to identify what’s happening inside. We sort of just moved through it. And she brought me back to my mother right away. And I did remember, and I forgot all that. All that I had forgotten. But what I remembered was that day, when I got back, I just remember that special day with my mother. And on that day, and I call it I kind of was woken up too soon, from the sort of trance that children are in. If we look in science, we see that children up to about age seven are in a sleep state. Their brain is actually producing Theta frequencies all the time, which is also the state of deep hypnosis. That’s why we absorb all this conditioning from our parents, like monkey see, monkey do, and we’re not yet ready to wake up.
So that really woke me up too soon, and created a fear. And then when I went to process that later. And we’ll get into how I dealt with finding my voice. I realized the big trauma was, I remember feeling very upset that my family wasn’t there, and I’m going to go home. And I left Aunt Aimee’s house, and I walked down the street, and I’m going to walk back. And I was very defiant and very confident and very powerful, which is who I am. I’m defiant, confident, and powerful. I stand for marriage. In a world today where people are trying to de-normalize heterosexual marriage, and family, and family values, and monogamy. I stand up very strong, always, again, standing up, and not going with the trend, the narrative today. It’s so in the wrong direction.
And again, that’s the part of me that says, I’m not going to take this, I’m moving forward to my convictions. And I remember this little boy, six years old, or four or five years old, walking down that street, so confident. And then when I got to the end of the block, which now I’ve gone back, it’s a little block, it’s a normal street, but it seemed like a big walk. And I got to the end of that block and the road went to the right and a road went to the left and a road went up ahead. And I just don’t know how to get home. And that’s where my self-esteem crashed. I can’t get home. I’m not able to get home. And I put my head down and I went back to the house and I just said maybe one day they’ll take me home.
So this was my reaction inside. That was a deep, deep fear that got generated that time of not being good enough. And it wasn’t till later that I was able to learn how to look inside yourself and know what held you back. But that was one of the major things. And one other funny thing is in Texas, it’s still this way. But in Texas when the boys don’t behave, my mother would say, okay, I’m going to tell your father. And then my father, when he got home from work, he’d pull out the belt and bend you over and you get whipped basically, and you know, it wasn’t terrible, but it never happened to me because by the time I came along, my mother convinced my dad, she said this whipping stuff you see with the older brothers, it never has worked. So let’s try and do something different with Johnny.
I didn’t find this out until I was teaching a class on parenting. And my mother was in the class. And everybody was when she identified herself at the end, I identified her at the end, everybody looked at her and went, oh, Mrs. Gray, you did such a good job with Johnny. Did you do the things he teaches? And she said, No, I would have been a better mother if I had learned these things. And they say, but what did you do? And she said, Well, we used punishment with all of our other kids. But when Johnny came along, it didn’t seem to be working. So when he came along, we just put him in the hands of God. And she was a very spiritual woman anyway, and just trusted, which is, her approach to me was trust. Whereas my brothers would see that when they got spanked, I didn’t. I would go to my dad’s room, and he’d say, okay, make noises while he would whip the chair.
Well, my, my brothers caught on very quickly to that, because they’re listening at the door, and they know he’s not getting punished. And so then they would punish me. So this was an amazing cycle that went on. So there was fear, although I don’t look back at my childhood and go, what a painful, horrible childhood, these are just moments along the way, but they have an effect. And basically, I was disconnected from speaking up and expressing my thoughts, my truth. Because usually, when you’re a little boy, particularly when your brothers are jealous of you, they’re always going to make you wrong, they’re always going to make fun of you, they’re always going to ridicule you, because they’re already upset with you. They don’t understand why they do that. So I really didn’t have the safety to articulate and express myself.
(16:50) Dr. Doreen Downing
Well, the way you describe it, almost sounds like a movie, where it could be a comedy, but it could also be such a tragedy. And…
(17:02) Dr. John Gray
(17:03) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yes. And so I really appreciate the details of it, because I have never heard so much of what we now call, abuse, as you experienced at the hands of big bullies. And yet, with what it says to me today, and what I hope the listeners are seeing, or hearing is that whatever the circumstances, there is a way out. And I also like that the fact that in your early childhood, there was a goodness and a kindness from your mother that really, I think infused your heart that empowered you, and was there to be even more later on, because that’s what you do.
(17:48) Dr. John Gray
There’s no question in my mind, my mother was somebody I could talk to, I didn’t talk about my feelings or what my brothers did or anything like that. But what I would talk to her about was my ideas. You know, I’m an idea guy. And I can still remember telling her sort of my insights about the world. Like I would say, one of my first ones I remember saying to her was, Mom, it’s very interesting that I get upset about things, and then it just goes away, and then something else comes up, and then it just goes away and something else comes up. And then those same things, they come back again, and then they go away. And I think each time they come back, I deal with them better. I think life is like a spiral.
And I remember and I still believe that. And I remember her saying to me, oh, that is so amazing, John, amazing. And of course, she already had figured this stuff out, too. She’s a wise one. But she never presumed to let me know that quote, I already know, nor did she correct me. So that was the safe place for me talking about my ideas. And I have to say that my mother always felt that I would be a great teacher one day. And she actually had a bookstore. When my book became so famous, she had to build a wing onto the store and have all my books. Because back in the 90s, there was a big videotape, probably 48 videotapes on five of my books, and another 20 of my books. And there were games, and there were cards, and there were all these things that go along with it. And I see a whole, like a whole room filled with John Gray things. It was very, very sweet. And so some part of me actually knew my mother liked books, and I’m sure that helped motivate me to one day write books. Who knows?
(19:36) Dr. Doreen Downing
Well, that conversation you describe that you had with her where she went, oh, that sounds so amazing. You know, this whole idea of what parents do in mirroring back to us. So in a way I feel like you were beginning to find your voice there because somebody was witnessing the truth, your spirit your gift, like you eventually said, as you were walking on that stage, I know my purpose, I know why I’m here, I do not have anxiety.
(20:05) Dr. John Gray
Right, I found it. It took a long time to find it, but I found it. And they still say a lot of performers, and since I go on stage, I also do that, I had a Broadway show even, and they often say that they have a lot of anxiety that makes your performance better. But having healed these issues, and finding my voice, and maybe because it’s my voice and not somebody else’s voice I’m acting out, but it’s my voice, I have no anxiety and ever since I was able to find that part of me that was so wounded, and heal that just by bringing it to my conscious awareness and processing it in various ways. The anxiety in my life went away. I was 35 years old. And since then I haven’t. I’m 70. I haven’t felt any anxiety ever. So it was healable. But I had to look inside myself and be articulate what’s in me and get the support that I needed to be heard.
(20:58) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yes, yes, yes, yes. That’s what the whole purpose of this podcast and my work is about. It is pointing to the inner realm where there could be something stuck rather than going out, and learning how to make a better speech, or a better presentation, and go on stage, and do a good act, and get approval, and applause and oh, gee, isn’t he amazing? The resonance of you now and you used a word in the beginning about clarity when you find your voice, and you have more of a clarity, when it’s truly yours, it’s almost like your sound, your vibration, because you’re connected to who you truly are. And so, in terms of this journey that you talk about, and healing, what are some of the moments about you finding it and waking up to your own power?
(21:52) Dr. John Gray
Well there’s a lot of, there’s first finding a voice. And then there was now, I had the voice and being able to overcome the anxiety with it. And that example I gave of giving a talk, I was, again, just mirroring a talk. I was taught how to say that. I practiced it in the mirror, and I did all that, I could say it. So that would reduce the fears, I know what to say. But still, regardless of that, the anxiety came up and it became less and less, but it was always there. But before, even it was there, there was a moment for me, where I just found my voice. And I had really nothing to say. And a lot of times, if you ask me as a teenager, what do you have to say? Not much. Okay. I remember writing essays in school. If it was something I could look up and write a paper on taking the encyclopedia and reading a book and putting it all together, I could do a pretty good job. But if you asked me my opinion on things, and the way I look at it, and my viewpoint, that was very empty, it was actually very empty.
And then I was living as the personal assistant to the Maharishi of the TM movement. Then I found my mission, okay, because that was part of my mission. I wanted to be a TM teacher. I wanted to help the world. And here was somebody who had helped the world and he was a world teacher. In every country we had TM centers, and so forth. It was very popular in those days. And the Beatles had just been with him and said, you could get high without taking drugs and crashing down. I said, that’s for me. So I went all force, okay, I took all his classes and somehow got to become his personal assistant.
And then he’d have these meetings. I started was 18 and then around 21, they have these meetings. We have all these very influential people, highly educated, smart people, and have discussions with them and plans, and I would just be taking care of his basic needs. And then one day just being in that environment, I just said, my voice popped up, okay. It was like at one day, a cloud lifted, and maybe I think the whole environment was so safe for me. And I was getting so much admiration not for what I said but what I did, because I was the personal assistant. Whenever he walked into a room, I would precede him holding his deer skin. And so everybody sort of coveted my personal relationship with the guru. So I think it was all that love that I got and support or whatever. That day, I just suddenly, whereas in a meeting when I never said anything, suddenly whatever anybody said, I had an opinion and I had something to say. It just sort of came out. When I was in that environment, I could do that.
When I spoke to the public though, I would have huge anxiety. Okay, the anxiety would be there. But in that safe womb of being able to articulate myself. And then later in life before I was actually getting rid of that anxiety I was talking, and I have to say, I’m a master meditator, I was this number one meditator, I can meditate 15 hours effortlessly. They did my brain scans, they put them on posters. And in spite of all my access of meditation, which I think is really good for everybody, it’s a very powerful thing, it did not take away my anxiety. Okay, that for me was the inner issues that I hadn’t yet looked at, that took away my anxiety. And one of the processes in there, there’re lots of processes, but one was, I took a play workshop. This is what actors do. They get into these classes where everybody’s impromptu. I don’t know the exact word for it now, but it may be impromptu.
(25:50) Dr. Doreen Downing
(25:51) Dr. John Gray
Improv. That’s it. So there are improv classes. And what you learn in improv is to be spontaneous. And whatever you say, somebody supports it. Nobody says, that’s ridiculous, or that’s silly, or we don’t want to do that. So like, we’re going to build an airplane, and so I’m going to go be a propeller, and then somebody’s going to be the wing. And so there’s always an add to an add. Comedians do this a lot, as well, in their comedy skits. You just say anything. Nobody says that’s a stupid idea. They just know that we’re just free flowing, letting whatever comes out, come out, and no rejection, no judgment. No, you are foolish. No, you didn’t do a good job. No, it wasn’t your fault.
And when those earlier traumas, for me they add up. Okay. It’s once you have a trauma, you sort of add things to that. Because I remember another one as I’m talking. There was a baseball game. And we’re in the last inning. And I’m out in left field. And basically, we could have won the game if I caught the ball. And I didn’t catch the ball. And I threw it in but they got to run in and our team lost. Now, I made one mistake, but I lost the game. So what teammates do is they say, hey, we all make mistakes. It’s just yours happened to be at the end of the game. And then another time in baseball, I was a good hitter, but I hadn’t hit in years. And I was just there. And people knew I was a good hitter. And so it was another one of those things, the bases are loaded, we just need one point. Ninth inning is all. And they said, John, get up there and do it. And because it wasn’t a highly regulated type of sport at that point, they locked me up. So I went and hit it and I hit towards third base, and they just put the guy out. And that was that. And I lost the game again.
But again, it’s when you feel everything is up to you. You take that one little incident, and you carry it with you your whole life. And why would I do that instead of just brush it off, because there were earlier traumas before. And then later on, I remember giving that talk and then a few more talks on TM. And the first talk I gave was, I mean, to a certain extent, we manifest our fears. If we think something bad is going to happen, we tend to get evidence for it or look for evidence for it. And I promoted a talk on TM, at University of Texas, and I told all my friends to come, nobody came. It was just like, nobody was there. And I said, I took a sigh of relief, at least nobody’s going to find out that nobody came to my talk. And then one man came in and I had to give the talk to him. It was terrible. It was such a painful moment.
And then the next talk, I made sure to market it. So 30 people were in the audience, and they were there. And I felt I did a good job. Everybody laughed. But two or three people hung around asking insinuating questions that my talk wasn’t good enough. You know when people would say, well, why would you do this, and you didn’t say this, a little hidden criticism, and the way people can ask questions. So when I left the talk, who did I think about all night long, those three people who didn’t clap for me. But 27 people did clap for me so that became a clear evidence that something I needed to work on is my self-esteem, which is to process those feelings.
So those are sort of a journey of building my self-esteem where I felt safe to express myself. First, I felt safe. I found my voice in a safe setting. Birth and the play games, improv, and also around Maharishi, where everybody admired me because I was his personal assistant. And it just happened. And it really happened in a moment. It was quite amazing. But I still didn’t feel safe outside of that womb, so to speak. You have a safety there. So then I started doing the improv classes and then I started learning how to process emotions when they would come up to look at where they came from, and to be able to articulate it which I wasn’t able to do as a child. And imagine saying to my mother, imagine saying to myself, and then being a parent to myself, and that’s a process that many therapists do. We’re parenting the inner child inside. And eventually it was gone. I’m free of it. Now, it’s wonderful.
(30:19) Dr. Doreen Downing
Well, you’ve certainly given, I think, one of the secrets about how to find your voice, which is to surround yourself with the right kind of listeners. And sometimes the speaking programs that are out there are trying to tell you how to do it in the way that speakers should do it, rather than affirming and giving you space to discover what that feels like, what that sounds like, with no criticism. So like, a completely non-judgmental environment. And by creating those, it feels like you find those you feel that kind of safety to drop down, and discover, and hear.
I have something in the work that I do. It’s called Essence Appreciation. And I surround people with people who are listening more deeply for the Essence of the person, not about what they’re saying, so that we get to drop everything about words, and just listen into that, you might say, because you understand this, the spirit, the Being of the person, and what is coming, what is the voice that comes from there? And then having a witness. The audience is the witness of the person transforming right before our very eyes.
(31:41) Dr. John Gray
It does. Very powerful.
(31:43) Dr. Doreen Downing
But there’s something you said that I think you know, so we’re saying, hey, it’s important to find safe environments. And yeah, therapy is one place. But you may find it and feel it, and yet out in the world, you put yourself in environments where it’s not safe. How do you bring safety to those environments when they are already inherently unsafe. People are judging you, are they going to buy your product or not? And you’re on edge. So I think that that’s important, too, is what you’re talking about is not only the safe environment and training yourself and doing processes, but this inner journey.
(32:25) Dr. John Gray
Yeah, I think the process is for me are the inner journey, but what you talked about is, again, having a group that makes you feel safe. And what I did in my job is I teach classes and seminars and so forth. And I do two-day seminars. And the last two hours, sometimes in the class, I asked people to share in the group what they learned, and acknowledge their partners who did exercises with, as well as acknowledge me if I said something of value to you. So I get to hear for an hour, at least sometimes two hours, how wonderful my creation was, and how wonderful I am. And that was very, very important to get that feedback. I think, even in a simple thing, simple concept is, you see a performer and I say, performer, as anybody who’s putting what’s inside out on stage, out on the public to go, oh, that’s terrible. That’s good. That’s not good. It doesn’t matter who they are. They need to have that clapping at the end. And if ever you have an opportunity to walk up to a singer or performer or teacher and just say, that was so helpful to me, or I enjoyed that so much, I’m going to take this as one of my cherished memories in my life. Anything you say like that, they will appreciate it. So many people say to me, I’m sure you’ve heard this before. I say, tell me more.
(33:52) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yes, well, the power of positivity, I think, is what you’re pointing to.
(33:57) Dr. John Gray
Any feedback, positive feedback. Here’s an example. One time I was so excited. I was invited…I did Oprah Show 18 times until I was cancelled. Most people don’t know I’m one of the first people that was actually canceled. We have a cancel culture. The feminist gave her such a bad time, as well. Today’s show, all the shows, they all got this controversial on two sexes. You can’t have them on your show. You’re promoting this guy who says men and women are different when the whole narrative has been over the last 30 years. More and more there’s no difference between men and women is another subject. We’re not talking about that right now. But here I am, going on the Oprah show, and telling my family, I’m so excited. I’m going to go on the Oprah show. And the first time, five of my brothers all said, why would you be afraid? I was afraid. I said I’m afraid, and I’m anxious about this and they said, but why? Why would you be afraid? And I said, well, there’s going to be 10 million people watching me. That’s right. But you know, your stuff, you know your stuff. And so that’s their perspective of thinking they’re being supportive. You can handle that. You’re going to.
But my oldest brother David because he had age and little more wisdom, he says, no, John, I can understand. You’ve never done this before. That must be scary. And I went, yeah, even if I could do it, it’s a little scary. Absolutely. But the family members, out of love, they didn’t understand that telling me, oh, you don’t need to be afraid. You can do this. Pushing down feelings. You can also say, I can understand you’re afraid and I know you’re going to do a good job. That’s a better way to communicate than I know the answer. I can see you’ve never done that before. That must be scary. So many people want what’s going to happen. And I think you’re going to do a good job. Not trying to put that on me. You don’t want to push people’s feelings down. You want to hear them and then support them in a gentle way, as if you’re not saying you shouldn’t feel that way. Oh, my gosh, anybody’s going to feel that way if they haven’t done something before.
And even to me when I say I don’t have anxiety, if I do something new that I’ve never done before, I will certainly feel fear, but nothing like what I used to feel. I remember going on something where you go through the jungles, and they’re telling you how to do this. And you can get your hand caught in it. You can lose your fingers. They’re saying all this stuff. I’m like, okay, let’s be really careful here. My wife was saying, let’s not do this. I said, it’s going to be okay. They just have to cover their tracks and say every bad thing that can happen. But it was perfectly fine. Children do this all the time. And in a sense, that’s the same formula I use, even today, that might also help me why I never feel anxious, even when I’m going somewhere new and doing something different.
Just recently, there was something I’d never done before it. I can’t remember what it was. But I was talking on a subject that’s not my subject. Okay, so I’m going to talk on another subject. And what do you want me to talk about? And how do you want me to relate to this? So it was something new. And then I just went, I just said to myself, as I had done this before, you’ll be fine. I say that to myself, I’ve done that before, I’ll be fine. I’ve done that before, I’ll be fine. Because I’ve done it so much.
And so that’s in the camp of you have to have experience of making mistakes and everything still being okay. And I do a process every time I give a talk, even after this interview, or after a day of doing interviews or talks or whatever. I always do reflection, as opposed to what did I say wrong, I just do a little emotional process and I go, oh, bummer. I’m embarrassed I said this, I could have said that. And then let it go. As opposed to the younger me like, oh, I shouldn’t have done that. I would look foolish. Just acknowledge the emotion that oh, I’m a little embarrassed. And now I let it go.
It’s so good. And as part of what I’ve learned in terms of healing any stuck emotion, whether it be fear, whether it be hurt, whether it be despair, sadness, anger, and depending upon the intensity of the situation, it might take longer. I lost my wife four years ago to cancer. And that was a good year of grieving. But even in that grief process, it’s feeling it and then letting it go, feeling and letting go, feeling and letting go. The pain, and the guilt, and the fears, and all these things you have to process. You have to feel them and let them go. And one of my insights, which has worked for so many people over the years, is the process, I call it the feel good process, the love letter, the feeling process, different names for it, but it’s when anything is stressing you, feelings like anxiety for example, look not just at what you’re afraid of. So you see the most of your fears are irrational, okay, you don’t really know that to be true. So I actually listened to my voice. What is it saying? It’s like a child saying, I’m afraid I don’t want to go do that. Well, what are you afraid of? Tell me. So you just let the child speak. And actually then once the negativity has been heard, then there’s a chance for the brain to say yeah, but we don’t know that’s all going to happen. We don’t know that’s true, or we don’t know that’s such a big deal, or we know that you’ll learn from that.
The brain automatically processes things if we can just put it up. That’s talking to a therapist or doing some process. And then if you talk to your friends, they always tell you shouldn’t be upset. If a person does not know how to listen, they can actually make you more anxious. But you shouldn’t feel that way as opposed to I can understand you feel that way. Then what I’ve found is that if the feeling, the emotion that you’re experiencing doesn’t go away within a few minutes, at least temporarily go away, there’s other emotions, and quite often people that have a lot of anxiety and fear, when they’re afraid they’re not aware that they’re also angry. You see, somebody can’t be angry without being afraid. And somebody can’t be afraid without being angry. Anger is just our reaction to, you’re not loving me, you’re not giving me what I want, this is not what I expected, this is not correct, this is a betrayal, this is an abandonment, this is mistreating me, this is an abuse. That’s the anger. But fear is always afraid that’s going to happen. So if you’re afraid this is going to happen, there is a part that is angry that those people are not making it safe for you, and they could do this and they could do this. And a lot of people live in fear, and this would be my example. More so when I was a child not even knowing I lived in fear, I was just extremely shy and not engaged in other activities. That’s what the fear did. It just showed up as a behavior of being extremely shy.
I remember in high school, they had everybody eat outside of the school, like there was a big school, like 2000 people, and they would all go out on the front lawn and eat. And I would go with my best friend and we would just go find a little spot on the other side of the building and have our lunch together. I couldn’t even face all that. It was too fearful for me. And I didn’t feel the fear. I just felt discomfort. I don’t want to go there. Because the people don’t have emotional intelligence of knowing, actually what am I afraid of. And part of what anxiety is, is not being able to even clearly identify when I’m standing in front of an audience, and I’m feeling anxiety. I just finished practicing my talk. What’s there to be afraid of? It’s only a few people there and they’re going to like it. They all want to hear this. Why am I so anxious? Well, you can say, okay, well, what am I afraid of? Write it out or talk it out. I’m afraid they’ll think I’m not good enough. I’m afraid they’ll think I’m not smart enough. I’m afraid that I will fail. I’m afraid that I will make mistakes. I’m afraid that I don’t look good enough. I’m afraid I don’t look old enough. I’m afraid I don’t have the credentials to do this. Identify what it is. And most people don’t want to identify it. Because then I’ll become more afraid. Actually, the opposite is true. The more you can clearly logically look at what am I telling myself that causes fear.
And then one process and there’s a lot of different process in my book, but one would be, well, imagine those people thought you weren’t good enough, and they didn’t like you, and they felt you should be better. Well, give yourself permission to feel angry about that. And write out what you’re angry about. Even if you don’t feel it, start giving yourself permission to feel it. Because as a little boy, when you’ve got five brothers that are somewhat violent, older than you, you can’t get angry. If you get angry, you get beaten up. And this is a challenge for women more so than men because historically, when people were not as civilized, if you got angry with a man, he would become violent. So there was danger. So women learn to wear thick makeup, always put on a smile. It’s part of what women are growing out of is I don’t have to please everybody. We have a society of codependent women who are unhappy. Codependence, for those that don’t know, that word is when you make other people’s needs more important than your own. And then you get mad at them for not taking care of you, when you’re the one who’s actually taking care of them, giving them the message that you don’t need anything until you get upset.
So there’s a lot of dynamics when women can’t at least feel and then let go of their anger. You have to just feel it and let it go. And the opposite of feeling and letting it go is reinforcing your anger. It is what people do, angry people, they feel it, and then they reinforce it by expressing it to someone, and they use anger in order to tell somebody to stop, as opposed to use good communication skills that don’t involve dumping negativity on other people. So there’s a dynamic here. So just looking at your fears and finding out what you’re angry about. And if that doesn’t take it away, then go deeper into those other emotions. And what I found is there’s four primary tones of emotion.
(44:17) Dr. Doreen Downing
Before you go into that, John, it feels like what we’re talking about now are subtler levels of voice because that’s what we’re here to help people see that inside of them, there may be many voices, and what you’re going to is how do you listen to yourself. That’s one of the keys I’m getting today is being open and listening rather than judging yourself or making yourself wrong or being even impatient with yourself. It’s saying, okay, I have this first thing that I feel. Let me explore it. Let me ask about it. So to me what I’m getting today absolutely is the listening to the voices within until you can go with these next four levels.
(45:05) Dr. John Gray
You’ve got it. We’re on the same wavelength. It’s so powerful what you just said. And it’s a little bit what I was saying, you said it better. The skill here is listening to what’s going on. And what I found is, it’s hard to listen to what’s going on, unless somebody is able to ask you the question, are you feeling this? And you say no. Well, what are you feeling? Are you feeling this and have a direction to look at? So for me, listening inside, I know that anytime I’m getting upset or bothered or feel any sort of adrenaline response, oh, there’s voices that are going on inside and I need to attend to them almost like, I have a child who’s crying and I need to attend to that child, I need to hold that child, I need to ask, oh, you’re upset about this?
And I’d like to give one example of those four levels. For fun, I saw it with my children, because of my children. I’m a therapist, I’m very good listener, and I know how to ask questions and so forth. But it became so clear to me when I would just ask more questions with my children, with a little help guiding them to what they might be feeling. This is what happens. So one day, I’m driving my daughter and it’s a hot day, and we drive by the ice cream shop. And a lot of kids are out front, they’re all having ice cream. And we’re not against ice cream. We just do not do it all the time. When we’re raising our children, we see too much sugar is not good for them. So we have special occasions where you get ice cream. And this was not a special occasion. We just had one. So that’s the setup. So she sees this little girl and she sees other kids having ice cream. She says, Daddy, Daddy, let’s get ice cream. Let’s get ice cream. And I said, no, we can’t have ice cream today. We don’t have ice cream every day. Immediately, because she’s never had my judgment. I’m very unconditional loving. She gets angry. Her eyes actually turned red. They get ice cream. I don’t get ice cream. Why don’t I get ice cream? And I said, I know sweetie, I know. You’re really angry about this. She goes, yes, I am angry about this. I said, I understand. What’s interesting is she then calmed down instantly. Because in her mind the fact that I had heard her anger means I heard her.
And now she’s thinking that oh, now that he understands how much I want ice cream, he’s going to give me ice cream. That was the first part of it. Because you have to think of a child, they don’t know better. They know I love doing nice things for them. And this would be a nice thing for her. So why doesn’t daddy want to do this nice thing for me. He must not understand how important this to me is. So I didn’t make her wrong for being angry. I said, hey, I understand you’re angry. I’d be angry too, if I never got ice cream. We’ll get ice cream but just not today. We don’t have ice cream every day. Then she started to cry. You see that underneath all anger is some disappointment. You can’t be angry unless there’s disappointment for a child, disappointment from the limbic system of the brain which is primarily operating for them rather than the prefrontal cortex. Their disappointment is felt as sadness. And so she started to cry. She says, it’s not fair. Those kids, they get their ice cream. I don’t get my ice cream. I’ll never get my ice cream. And I said, I understand. You’re sad. She goes, yes. Sad. I’m teaching her to identify the emotions. But under the anger, naturally, the crying started happening. You’re sad because those children, they’re getting ice cream and you’re not getting ice cream and you want ice cream. And why doesn’t Daddy get you ice cream? I understand that. But we don’t have ice cream every day. But soon we’ll be having ice cream. She goes, no, no, we’ll never have ice cream again. I don’t believe it. They get it and I don’t and that’s why it is. So that’s I understand. You’re afraid. You’re scared and afraid you’re never going to get ice cream again. She goes, yes, they’re going to get it, I won’t get it. That’s it. I’m never going to be happy again. Never going to have ice cream again.
You see how I had to identify it, and they easily went to the next. Identify it, then went to the next. And usually for children, it’s just three levels of emotion. And then I just said, then that’s what you do, you hear them, then you basically reassure them of what their need is and that they’re going to get it fulfilled and you make a promise. And all I had to do was at that point I said, oh sweetie, we can always have ice cream on special occasions. And guess what? Sunday we have a special occasion. So Sunday we’re going to have ice cream and you’ll get it then. She said what kind of ice cream? I said, well, what kind would you want? She’s like, vanilla ice cream. Okay, we’re going to have vanilla ice cream. You promise? I said, yes, I promise. And all done. No trauma, no upset, no feeling deprived, but she was heard and then the promise was made in response to what it is she was needing. And that’s how a parent can raise their children. That’s how we can raise our own inner child, which is to feel the distress. Go feel, hear it, understand it, go to a deeper level of it. And that can be very happy, the positive.
And then as you do it as a process, you’ll also want to balance it with positive feelings. Because once you identify negativity, positivity seems to spring up, it’s like negativity is pushing down, holding a lid on it, pushing it down, pushing it down, let the negativity come out, hear it yourself. Definitely don’t use it to change somebody. If ever you use negativity, to change someone, you’re basically like an animal growling at somebody or feeling sorry for yourself to get people to help you. If you use negativity to get what you want, then when you’re not getting what you want, the brain goes straight to looking for reasons and justifications and stories to justify being negative. Having negative stories. We’re always telling ourselves a story.
One of the times I was doing a radio, this is before I got rid of anxiety, and I was doing a radio show, I had all this weakness, my knees were weak. It was just literally, why do I feel this way? It’s just an interview. But it was my first radio show and it was a big deal. And I remember saying, okay, I’m going to do a process. What am I telling myself right now, to make me feel this way. And that’s what we call the critics committee, these voices that live inside of us. So what am I telling myself and identify everything that it’s telling me, and that creates an awareness that you’re causing this erosional reaction, not the interview.
(51:39) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yes, that’s what we were talking about. It’s an inside job. And what you’ve just described in the process. I’m hoping people will take today because we’re near the end and I have to say goodbye here. And you have offered people a very concrete way to not only discover what’s going on, and how you do that inside job to build not only for yourself, a deeper awareness, but what I loved mostly is being able to be a parent that you listen to your children in such a way and help them label those levels that you talked about today. And then the actual kind of being clear, really it’s not now, but I hear you.
(52:28) Dr. John Gray
When you’re children are misbehaving, I understand you’re frustrated, your brother’s getting this, you’re not getting this, but we’re a family and we have to share. You’ll have your turn. When I started just learning how to talk like that, my children all started cooperating. Identify the emotion and then teach them, we’re a family, we don’t always get we want, we can’t get this, but you will get this and you look at what are the needs, and make sure your children have the anticipation of getting what they need.
And that’s what we can do for ourselves when we see that all of our anxiety, all of our negativity, the emotions that come up, it’s just a childlike part of us that needs a parent at that moment to help identify, to name and then when I did that process, I still remember for the radio show, it was like, alright, I’m going to identify him and listen to what am I telling myself and I identified it out loud. I’m not good enough. He’s going to think I’m not good enough. He’s going to think I’m weak. He’s going to think it’s a waste of time. He’s going to think I’m wrong. He’s going to think meditation is ridiculous, or whatever it is. So I identified it. And that caused a huge relief, because the voice was subconsciously just causing me to be afraid. Now I know the voice is saying it. And then in that case, all I had to do is just shift to, and I’m grateful. I’m grateful I can do this radio show. I’m grateful that I have this teaching. I’m grateful I know what I can do. I’m grateful I have this opportunity. I’m grateful. I just started doing what I’m grateful for. And it was so powerful.
It’s not always going to work that way. You might have to go through more emotions. But what I do if you go through the four levels, and for adults, the fourth level is always when we’re upset, we’re embarrassed, or we’re regretful about something, some mistake we’ve made, some apology we should make. or I should have done this, I apologize for this, I made a mistake, I’m embarrassed. Whatever. You go through those four levels, then you go into, how I want things to be because underneath every blocked, every negative emotion is just to block desire on some level. So then express what the true desire is, and then be grateful, be happy, be confident, and be proud.
What I’m grateful for, what I’m happy about, when I’m proud, when I’m confident, and what I’m proud of. And just always balanced negative with positivity and try to minimize that negativity rules your life. And one final thing, I know we’re finishing up but I just love this topic. So thank you for having me.
Another one is when you let your fears control you, you give them more weight and power over you. And regardless of what you’re afraid of, take a step, take a step. You don’t have to do the whole thing but take action that defies the fear, which is holding you back. if it’s an irrational fear.
(55:18) Dr. Doreen Downing
One of the things that I’m leaving right now with is what you’ve just said about giving gratitude and so that the voice of gratefulness feels like it is so healing within us and helps change the whole color of the of our experience. So thank you, I’d like to have you give us how people can contact you.
(55:42) Dr. John Gray
Oh, thank you. That’s MarsVenus.com. And I do seminars from time to time in the Bay Area. So they can do MarsVenus.com forward slash events, or just go to events at the website. But the other thing is that we have tons of free great blogs that I do and my daughter Lauren does, and you’ll go there. And right on the front page, there’s a free seminar called, How To Get Everything You Want In Your Relationships. And there’s one for single people, one for couples, one for men only, one for women only. We get rave reviews on that and it’s right there you can get introduced to many of the Mars Venus ideas that might be helpful for you in your life.
(56:27) Dr. Doreen Downing
John, thank you so much for opening up so much, so many layers, so many aspects of the facets of who you are. Thank you.
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Podcast host, Dr. Doreen Downing, helps people find their voice so they can overcome anxiety, be confident, and speak without fear.
Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: doreen7steps.com.