Today, I interview Lorraine Segal. Lorraine grew up in southern California. She tells us about her struggle to feel the same love she saw elsewhere around her. Her own parents never showed unconditional love, so Lorraine lacked the support and affection she craved. She felt she could never measure up and that everything had to be perfect, and in response to this, she often procrastinated. She was afraid of doing it wrong, so she didn’t do it at all. Her parents meant well, but they never gave her the foundation she needed to feel like she belonged in this world.
Lorraine also knew societal struggles from a young age. Her family was Jewish, and she was surrounded by conservative Christians who thought they were going to hell. There was a lot of persecution and rejection, and Lorraine often felt like an outcast. Lorraine already had such a low view of herself that she hadn’t even realized she was being persecuted and was experiencing antisemitism. She thought there was something wrong with her and that she deserved to be treated that way.
In terms of finding her voice, Lorraine says she was never really without a voice, per se. She was very articulate and enjoyed presenting, teaching, and connecting with others, but her real issue was her own belief that no one would value anything she had to say, so none of it would matter. Her unique way of thinking, problem-solving, and making connections made her feel alone and unable to relate with others. Who would ever understand her?
“The personal is political,” she reminds us. She began to fight for the person she was underneath all the disrespect from others and from herself. She took action in the world to uncover her own fears, heal her own wounds, and make sure her own voice was being heard. She was in recovery and was learning to confront the thought patterns that had harmed her life for so long. She attended workshops and focused on her inner and outer dialogue.
In the process of writing her book, she realized that she didn’t need to focus on who would read her book and what they’d say. She learned that it was just as important for her own inner self that she complete the physical act of getting her words out on paper. She has forgiven herself and other words for all the negative, belittling words and actions against her. And in her work today, her gift to the world is to help others learn and practice forgiveness, too.
After surviving the 50’s and 60’s, as well as twenty years in toxic academia as a tenured professor, Lorraine Segal was inspired to started her own business, Conflict Remedy (ConflictRemedy.com), happily teaching, coaching, blogging and consulting around workplace conflict transformation. She is addicted to reading novels and enjoys walking and hiking in beautiful Northern California, where she lives with her wife. Her cartoon muse, Bookie, insisted that she write her new memoir, Angels and Earthworms: an unexpected journey to joy, love, and miracles.
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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 # 92 Lorraine Segal
“Joy, Love, and Miracles
(00:35) Dr. Doreen Downing
Hi, this is Dr. Doreen Downing and I am host of the Find Your Voice, Change Your Life podcast. What I do here is to invite guests who have a story about not having had a voice in their life. Somewhere along the line, some of them have come up with a specific time where they feel like they lost it. Others feel like it was just coming into a certain environment where they weren’t acknowledged or welcomed into this world so that it was harder to feel like they have value. Part of finding our voices does have to do with value, feeling like we are valuable to others. Usually, that is parents when we start out, but it can happen anywhere along the line as we grow up, getting people to witness, acknowledge, and reflect back to us our magnificence. Today, I get to meet a very new friend and she’s brand new to me, so she’ll be brand new to everybody else here. Lorraine Segal. Hi, Lorraine.
(01:51) Lorraine Segal
Hi, Doreen. I’m so happy to meet you and to be here with you today.
(01:56) Dr. Doreen Downing
I know both of us feel like we’re excited and enthused and willing to step into a conversation about finding your voice. You sent me something, a bio. I’d like to read that if that’s okay so that people get a better sense of the journey we’re about to take care. After surviving the 50s and 60s, as well as 20 years in toxic academia as a tenured professor, Lorraine Siegel was inspired to start her own business, conflictremedy.com. Happily teaching coaching, blogging, and consulting around workplace conflict transformation. She is addicted to reading novels and enjoys walking and hiking in beautiful northern California, where she lives with her wife, her cartoon muse, Bookie, insisted that she write her new memoir, “Angels and Earthworms: An Unexpected Journey to Joy, Love, and Miracles.” Hold it up just a little for those who aren’t seeing this. What we’ve got is a beautiful cover that Lorraine is showing us to her book. We got your website. I’m sure it’s conflictremedy.com. We’ll get access to that. Thank you, Lorraine. Oh, and you live in Northern California?
(03:32) Lorraine Segal
(03:35) Dr. Doreen Downing
And so, do I.
(03:36) Lorraine Segal
Oh, cool. It’s a beautiful place.
(03:39) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yes, it’s sunny today.
(03:41) Lorraine Segal
(03:43) Dr. Doreen Downing
And it’s mid-December. Well, here we go. What I said is that in learning about you, I always like to get a little sense of did you grow up here? What was the early family environment like for you? Just as a way to start the exploration. If we could start there?
(04:06) Lorraine Segal
Absolutely. It’s actually where I start my memoir. The first chapter is called “Welcome to Downey Future Unlimited.” Downey is a bedroom community town in Southern California. The sign was kind of a joke because it was just an exit off the Santa Ana freeway, with strip malls and everything surrounded by other little communities with strip malls. That’s where I lived my first 14 years and then we moved to the San Fernando Valley and I lived in Van Nuys for a number of years. It’s interesting to reflect on my childhood because now, I have the perspective of all the healing and the work inner work that I’ve done since. I didn’t understand any of this at the time. My parents simply weren’t able to give me what I needed to feel like I’m a whole lovable person. It wasn’t out of malice. They didn’t get that themselves and they didn’t know how to give it to me. But I did grow up feeling like I was supposed to be perfect and I could never measure up. One of the horrible ways that manifested for me was one of my siblings became a workaholic, and instead, I got paralyzed. I felt so afraid that I wouldn’t do things right, that I would procrastinate and not get them done. One of the ways I describe it is that if this is the planet where everybody is, I felt like I had a struggle to work and prove myself just to be on the planet with everyone else. It always felt to me like love was conditional. I know it wasn’t my parents intention but that’s what I got.
(06:09) Dr. Doreen Downing
Thank you so much for giving us a snapshot— It’s kind of like a movie right now. I’m seeing Southern California and I know that area so I know what it’s like to get off the freeway. Here’s this little girl growing up. It’s surrounded by an environment. I liked what you said about not fully—what was it—loved for being whole, that wholeness of you, and yes, as little kids, we’ve got all parts of ourselves that need to be loved, because that’s how we learn to love ourselves.
(06:46) Lorraine Segal
The other part for me was that I was growing up in a very politically conservative Christian community and I was from a liberal Jewish family. I didn’t look like the other kids. My family didn’t worship like the other kids. It really was an additional setup to feeling like an outcast.
(07:09) Dr. Doreen Downing
Thank you. Yes, an outlier, somebody who’s on the marginal. It was a real experience for you. It wasn’t like something imagined. It feels like oh, yes, this is true. This is in reality. People around you— you were visible and people—I was going to say—pointed at you, but I don’t know if you felt bullied, or— What did you feel?
(07:38) Lorraine Segal
Part of it was that they had so many stereotypes and so much prejudice against Jews. There was a lot of antisemitism, some unconscious— It wasn’t so bad when I was really little, because little kids don’t care about that stuff. But from the age of 10 to 14, which is when I still lived there, they thought Jews were going to hell. They thought some of them thought we had horns, and they were very surprised I didn’t have horns and a tail. It was that kind of prejudice.
(08:13) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yes, you’re right. That’s exactly the word. Prejudice being— I’m going to use the word but I’m not saying it’s true, but it does seem like a victim of prejudice. Not that you have victim mentality, but just more like a way to describe it, the object of prejudice.
(08:33) Lorraine Segal
One of the sad things is that I didn’t realize it was antisemitism until I was in my 20s and worked with a therapist who was also Jewish and had grown up in the South. She said, what you’re describing that you experienced is antisemitism. I said, “Really?” Because I thought it was just me. It was part of my lack of self-love that I thought there was something wrong with me, and that’s why I was being treated the way I was.
(09:01) Dr. Doreen Downing
You did take an inner journey, didn’t you?
(09:05) Lorraine Segal
Yes, it still continues.
(09:09) Dr. Doreen Downing
I know. I agree. All these years. To me, that’s what life is about, the inner journey. Even as we go through different stages of our lives, there’s always something new to learn. There was a book called Necessary Losses. I don’t know if you know the author, but it was about each stage being a loss that we have to grieve. Even like going from protected home, as protected as it can be and sometimes it isn’t, to the school environment, and then out of the school environment, into teenage years, and then our teenagers to young adulthood. I could go on but it’s pretty clear. Each stage of life has a— We’re still learning, all the time. For those of us who love that inner work, inner journey, it’s fascinating. We get to be more and more and discover more and more. What a moment to have a therapist say, “Hey, that’s I antisemitism.”
(10:21) Lorraine Segal
It’s so interesting in what you’re saying about the different cycles in the losses. Just a few days last week, I went to a wonderful workshop with a woman named Stella Orange and Rebecca Liston, on the hero’s journey, and how it applies to our businesses in our lives. She talked about cycles, and I relate it to the concept of the heroes, because that’s what I wrote about in my memoir, that’s how I see my life. You’re in states as you go to seeking, you go to the dark, night of the soul, the monster, the belly of the beast. You get magical tools. You find your way out, and then you start again. I love that way of framing it because actually, one of the editors I worked with wanted me to do a traditional structure for my memoir. It starts here, you go up to the climax, and unwind everything. I knew that mine was more. Because it wasn’t just one realization, one journey, one set of magical tools. It’s kept growing. I liked that actually.
(11:39) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yes. for those who are listening and aren’t seeing this, what you did was to put a circle. it was kind of like a spiral.
(11:51) Lorraine Segal
Actually, I had drawn a spiral. That spiral inspired my designer with the cover that we ended up with, because part of that idea— My therapist, that same wonderful therapist had said to me also—I saw her for eight years—at one point, I said, “Haven’t we done this already?” “We didn’t,” she said, “You’re looking at the same material, but not from the same perspective.” You’re at a different point in the spiral. It was very powerful teaching for me to understand that. It’s a different way of looking at it as life work. Instead of feeling like I’m stuck with this stuff forever. It’s like, “Oh, now I get to look at this again,” and learn more and heal more.
(12:42) Dr. Doreen Downing
I love that. In fact, I know that some of the people I work in my coaching programs and psychotherapy say, “Didn’t we already? Shouldn’t I be through this.” But I liked that idea, that frame, “Hey, it’s a different point of view. You’re a different person now.” There’s more to explore, and to uncover and maybe even heal. That mindset is important.
(13:10) Lorraine Segal
That’s actually where the title of my book comes from, is that at one point I said to her, but I didn’t want to keep making mistakes. I wanted to be an angel of light. She looked me right in the eye and said, “Then what would you do here on the planet with the rest of us earthworms?” An angel and an earthworm.
(13:35) Dr. Doreen Downing
Wow. Now we know the backstory to the book. Let’s return to this whole idea of voice and finding your voice. When you think about it, sounds like there was your journey through the growing up years and starting adulthood is not fully aware of your inner strength. What about voice? How do you feel when we talk about the idea of finding your voice show up?
(14:10) Lorraine Segal
Well, I’ve really been reflecting on that because of your podcast and thinking about what does that mean to me finding my voice? Because the truth is, I’ve always been articulate. I’ve never really had a problem with public speaking. I love teaching. I love presenting. It comes easily to me. I love telling stories, all of that. But the piece that I really resonate with about needing to find my voice is that I did not believe my voice had value. I certainly didn’t believe that anyone wanted to listen to it. I’m also a systems thinker. I’m someone who will grab things from all these different areas and see the connections and put them together. A lot of people don’t do that and I did not always know how to explain to people, the connections that I saw.
(15:08) Dr. Doreen Downing
Well, this whole idea then about finding your voice, it’s different than some people that show up on my podcast who feel like they didn’t have a voice. But what you said, when we started today, coming out into a family where you didn’t feel like you didn’t have value. What you’re saying is, “I feel okay about speaking but does it really have value?” In a way, there is a dot that I’ve just connected.
(15:44) Lorraine Segal
Yes. It’s interesting having written this memoir. The goddess told me to let the memoire be what it wanted to be. I wrote it in kind of a semi-casual, folksy style. In a way, I thought that it’s not the only voice I use. When I write articles about conflict transformation, I’m a little more formal. But people who’ve read it have said that they hear my voice when they’re reading it. I thought that was a real compliment because it didn’t sound generic to people. It sounded like me. That’s the idea because it was about my life.
(16:29) Dr. Doreen Downing
Again, for those who are just listening, Lorraine has such a beautiful smile when she said that. it was just me. it’s almost like “Wee! Yey!”
(16:43) Lorraine Segal
My wonderful inner child, she says, “Wee!”
(16:48) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yes, so keep on going about— Okay, so it feels like what you’re talking about voice and then the question of not having value. How did you confront that? We’re always dissolving that but it was some story you have to say about that.
(17:10) Lorraine Segal
Part of the thing about cycles is there’s so much that’s contributed to my journey. One important piece— I’m just going to say this. Do not talk about what is feminism, because part of my feeling like I didn’t have a voice was about being a woman and women not being valued in society. Finding that there were other strong women who were saying, “What we think matters. We hold up half the sky.” The personal is political. All those things was very empowering. Then another really crucial piece for me was finding 12-step recovery programs. My first program was around relationships and codependency and people pleasing and trying to control people. Working through the steps, which are very spiritual about that helped me understand that I didn’t have to be perfect, that we all make mistakes, that I could forgive myself and other people. I could honor who I was, and learn to have a fuller, richer, more loving life. I did write about this. My memoire is about my life so when I’m talking about my life, I can’t help talking about it.
(18:35) Lorraine Segal
There was this one moment when I was in early recovery. I was leaving a meeting and walking down an avenue, Solano Avenue, which had restaurants and wine bars. I saw this flower torn out by the roots on the sidewalk. I looked around and I saw there was a flower box on one of the restaurants and the restaurant was closed. I went into the wine bar next door and asked them if they could give me a glass of water or something. I was very emotional. Guy was kind and he rinsed out a wine bottle and put water in it. I took the little flower and I put it back in its spot in the flower box where someone had torn it out and put some water with it. I said to it, “I want you to be okay. I want you to grow and flourish and lead a beautiful flower life.” I started crying because it wasn’t about the flower. It was about me. It was about me making that intention for myself, that I didn’t have to always feel bad about myself, that I could come from love and put out love and have a wonderful life.
(20:00) Dr. Doreen Downing
Well, that voice that you just expressed, have a wonderful life, and grow. It feels like, yes, you were saying that to the object, the flower, to yourself, but it feels like what you do now with your book and with your life and with your writings is to tell us that very same thing. Being with you today, I feel like you’re watering me, by your sense of self that comes through. To me, voice comes from that sense of self, the true self. Your story right there was vulnerable, and you showed a piece of yourself that was pretty precious. A lot of times, people think that being vulnerable, or that sense of intimate revelation can be something you don’t want to share, but thank you for being such a deep, strong, vulnerable voice.
(21:20) Lorraine Segal
Thank you. In my teaching, when I taught English as a second language, and my teaching now when I teach about conflict transformation, I very consciously and deliberately do something I call telling stories on myself because if I’m willing to share the places I was vulnerable, and that I made mistakes, it really is an invitation to my students and clients that it’s a safe place to do the same. There’s some things I don’t choose to share, but a lot of things I feel make me stronger, and they make others stronger to share.
(22:00) Dr. Doreen Downing
Absolutely, yes. The Image too sticks with us, the Solano Avenue. By the way, that’s where my office used to be. I gave it up right at the beginning of COVID for three years now.
(22:18) Lorraine Segal
You asked me about what helped me find my voice. The third piece of it, which partly came out of 12-step recovery, and partly from other work I did, was finding the goddess. I actually took a workshop. In Berkeley and Oakland, you can take workshops about everything, and channeling. I began to do writing or dialoguing with the goddess and she is such a powerful presence in my life. She says things that I wouldn’t consciously be able to say to myself. The whole thing about writing the book. Boy did I have a voice that came in to say, “Who you think you are to write a book. You don’t have anything to say.” That thing about voice really came up, and I could ground myself but that goddess told me to write this book. She didn’t necessarily tell me to publish everything, but she definitely told me to write it. She wanted me to put it out in the world. That really helps me beyond my own voice feel like I’m contributing to the good in the universe.
(23:23) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yes, I get it. I’m not sure what else to ask you because I feel like I’ve been gifted by your presence and your stories and by what you’re talking about that shows up in your memoir. How do people find you?
(23:44) Lorraine Segal
Thanks for asking that. My website is conflictremedy.com. There is a book page that’s all about the book. On that page, you can sign up for the newsletter to find out about special offers where I’m speaking, and also to get the forgiveness, affirmations, or prayers depending on what you want to call them. If you sign up for the newsletter, I will immediately send those to you. There are ones that I’ve really used and I’ve used with my clients to help me let go of resentments and grudges and bitterness, which also strengthens our voice if we can heal ourselves from those.
(24:31) Dr. Doreen Downing
One of the things I noticed as you talk about conflict, you say, “Conflict transformation.” You don’t say, “Conflict resolution.”
(24:42) Lorraine Segal
It’s been its own journey. When I started studying this, it was called conflict resolution. Then people started talking more about conflict management because even if you don’t always resolve it, you can manage it in a better way. About a year ago, I heard someone use the term conflict transformation. I thought, “That’s me. That’s it. That’s what I do.” If you look at my website and what I say about conflict, I’m all about how can you open up the stories? How can you forgive yourself and others? How can you turn conflict into harmony and understanding.? I love the idea. That’s really how I work on it with my clients too. What I teach is to absolutely transform it into something better.
(25:38) Dr. Doreen Downing
Well, that sounds like a great last line. Transforming into something better. Thank you so much, Lorraine, for visiting with me today and it feels like the start of a really beautiful friendship. Thank you.
(25:51) Lorraine Segal
Thank you so much, Doreen. It’s been wonderful.
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Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: doreen7steps.com.
Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: doreen7steps.com.