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In October 2013, we spoke with licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Aleta Edwards on SOTT Talk Radio. Dr. Edwards graduated with honors form the Chicago School of Professional Psychology and is the author of the best-selling e-book Fear of the Abyss: Healing the Wounds of Shame and Perfectionism.

Through her many years of practice, Dr. Edwards has treated people with painful issues of perfectionism, shame, indecisiveness, control issues, and a fear of needing others. This constellation of issues kept appearing in a majority of her clients, regardless of gender, age, or cultural-ethic group.

Rather than solely focusing on coping with symptoms of these anxieties, she has helped people go inward, facing the specific fears that caused these symptoms. She has found that these painful symptoms - defensive in nature - would lessen considerably or simply vanish when the core issue was addressed.

Running Time: 01:53:00

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Joe: Hi and welcome to another SOTT Talk radio show. I'm Joe Quinn. And with me in the studio are Niall Bradley.

Niall: Hello listeners.

Joe: Pierre Lescaudron.

Pierre: Hello.

Joe: And Juliana Barembuem.

Juliana: Hello.

Joe: This week we have the pleasure of talking to Dr. Aleta Edwards. Dr. Aleta is a licensed clinical psychologist with 20 years of practice who graduated with honours from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Through her many years of practice, Dr. Aleta has treated people with painful issues of perfectionism, shame, indecisiveness, control issues and a fear of needing others. This constellation of issues kept appearing in the majority of her clients regardless of gender, age or cultural ethnic group. Rather than solely focusing on coping with symptoms of these anxieties, Dr. Aleta has helped people go inward, facing the specific fears that caused these symptoms. She has found that these painful symptoms, defensive in nature, would lessen considerably or simply vanish, when the core issue was addressed. Dr. Aleta is also the author of an excellent book entitled Fear of the Abyss - Healing the Wounds of Shame and Perfectionism. And the book lays out the core understanding she has come to over the many years of her work and research in the area of human psychology and mental health. So, welcome to the show Dr. Aleta.

Aleta: Oh thank you. I'm happy to be here.

Joe: Okay, that's great. So the first thing I wanted to ask you, Dr. Aleta, is in your book you make repeated reference to PCS and PCS persons. Can you define what PCS is and how a person would know if they are a PCS person?

Aleta: Yes. I use the term PCS for perfectionism, control issues and shame to describe a type of personality. It's not a diagnostic label but a type. And these are people that have certain traits or issues that do not exist in isolation, but they all go together. Now sometimes you'll hear someone refer to a person as a control freak or as a perfectionist or as an anal person, but the truth is, there's a constellation of issues that all go together, that have the purpose of defending against the real core that is wounded. There's a certain core pain emotionally that PCS people have that they're defending against. So the perfectionism, black and white thinking, the dread of being disappointed or disappointing others, needing to be in control, etc., these all go together. And this is why I call them the spokes of the wheel, because they don't exist in isolation. A real PCS person will have either all of these traits or most of them. And again, they're defences, but the defences themselves become very painful and problematic.

Joe: Just before I go on, I wanted to mention to our listeners that this is a call-in show, so if you want to call in and ask Dr. Aleta any questions, our number is on the website. It's, from the U.S. 718-508-9499. And 001 before that for international calls. So what you just described, Dr. Aleta, is - it sounds a bit like the issues that someone who would be diagnosed, or may be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder would also exhibit to some extent, the control issues, the perfectionism. I mean, what is the difference between someone with PCS as you've described, and someone who would be diagnosed as narcissistic personality disorder.

Aleta: Okay, that's a good question and some of the people who have written to me have asked this, so I really would like to address it. The first issue is that remember people with a PCS type of personality, we're not going by the label. By the time they're seen we're going to have an anxiety disorder, a depressive disorder. A narcissistic personality disorder is a label. So we shouldn't really compare a type with a label because right off the bat we kind of have like an apple and an orange.

Now given that, so if it's okay what I'd like to do is change narcissistic personality disorder to say a personality type with extreme pathological narcissism. And then I can answer this better. Certainly people with low self-esteem who are perfectionistic, in their relationships will show narcissistic traits. They'll need to be needed. They'll need to do things sometimes better than other people. Perfectionism alone is a comparative kind of thing and can be narcissistic. But they're doing this out of fear and pain. They're trying to just keep their balance. Ironically, the narcissism of the PCS personality - and I say this just having worked with people for so long, so many years - it's not malicious. It's really based on keeping the other close and not having them leave. It's like "See how much you need me". And proving to themselves "I'm not bad. I'm not bad." Because what the PCS person is doing is fighting against acknowledging some kind of inner feeling of badness or low self-worth.

Now the person with extreme pathological narcissism has what you could really call an excessive degree of envy of others. And this kind of person lacks the sweetness often seen in the PCS personality. This pathological narcissist can't feel admiration because he or she can't tolerate something good about something else or something that someone else have if it's not them. It produces an envy in them so strong that they really want to take down the other person in some way, either psychologically or sometimes in a more concrete way.

The PCS person typically is not motivated by envy, with fighting off this low self-worth. A person with extreme pathological narcissism, which is what I call what you were referring to, has a destructiveness to them and they envy to the point where they wish ill on someone who has had good fortune, because it wasn't them, it was somebody else. So, you know, and they'll induce envy in others. You'll see excessive bragging. Not even listening to what the other person said. But they want to be envied. They want to kill the envy in themselves and they really want to kill that whole feeling and do what they have to, to get that done. So while the PCS person doesn't really understand what they're doing, I would say pathological narcissism is not really quite so benign. I will say there's like an inner section. There are pathological narcissists who are anything but perfectionists. They're not PCS people. But there could be some PCS people - again, I would say there's a little inner section where you could have both, but since the PCS person cares so much about being a good person, there's really an essential difference here.

Joe: So you're talking about an essential difference at the core but that it may manifest in ways that make it difficult to distinguish sometimes.

Aleta: Yes, without looking at the whole picture. I think sometimes PCS people do sometimes diminish people who were close to them and when they're in therapy and they realize this, they feel horrible. They really feel bad because that's not what they meant to do.

Joe: So you're talking about ...

Aleta: That's not what they meant ...

Joe: You're talking about a sense of remorse or an ability for remorse or guilt or - not guilt, but remorse that is absent in someone with NPD.

Aleta: Yes, absolutely. Yes, there's an empathy, a compassion. PCS people very often do care for others, they're just carrying around this baggage. So, and yes when they do realize what they're doing, there's a terrible remorse because that's not really what they meant to do. And they do have the ability to feel admiration and to be happy for others. So there's really - there's nothing malicious really in the PCS person. They're more shame-based than envy-based. What you said, that's a good way, like to say it, like the remorse, a compassion.

Joe: Okay. The title of your book is Fear of the Abyss, Healing the Wounds of Shame and Perfectionism, but in terms of the abyss, what is that? Is it something concrete? Is it something - is it a psychological construct? Is it - or more of an emotional construct or ...?

Aleta: I guess psychologically speaking, it's really as concrete as anything. What I'm calling the abyss is the specific feeling or fear that the person has that drives all of those spokes of the wheel, all of those defensive symptoms. And this will be specifically different for different people, but it'll be similar in terms of what it is.

Joe: So the abyss is essentially a fear that gets activated by something in the environment, or something that someone else does.

Aleta: The fear is of uncovering what is really there. But what's really there, what's feared, is a feeling because people - children internalize what's been done to them. So it could be the kind of thing where someone - if I can use a short example - if someone has an abusive father who's an alcoholic and doesn't pay the bills and the family lives hand-to-mouth and mom and the children are getting abused and it's really horrendous, a survivor of this kind of terrible childhood would be a PCS person, because these are survivors after all, really. And you might get a person who thinks that drinking is just wrong so anybody who even has, like a little glass of wine at the holidays, is just a bad person. That's it. Because to them, the idea of even taking a sip represents being like dad, who's not simply an alcoholic. He's really a pretty lousy human being and an irresponsible one and who breaks the law and so forth. So it's something very, very loaded, a feeling like, "Well this is really what I am, so I better just keep this under wraps". And that's their personal abyss, that they'd do anything at all to defend against.

Joe: And they could also project that outwards onto other people. For example, in the example that you used of someone who had an alcoholic, abusive father, if they - in later life if that person sees someone else who's drinking, they may have a negative view of them that is unjustified.

Aleta: Absolutely, yeah, that's totally right.

Pierre: I have a question Aleta. You know we have such a subjective vision of ourselves, often we have all those narratives and most of the time to cope with reality, so how is it possible to know if you have those PCS traits? How to evaluate objectively our psychological profile?

Aleta: Okay, let me just make sure I understand the question. So you're asking - just saying with the complex realities we all deal with, how can somebody know if they have a PCS personality?

Pierre: Yes, exactly.

Aleta: Okay.

Pierre: And actually, I was mentioning the fact that often we have a lot of narratives and a lot of subjective evaluations of ourselves. Sometimes - let me give you an example. You have people who work hard ...

Niall: Workaholics.

Pierre: Workaholics, and because they think they are lazy, so they keep doing more and more and more because they have this deep belief that they are lazy, but in the end they are hyperactive. So they then have a negative evaluation of themselves, so how do you - can you evaluate objectively yourself and see if you are within this PCS spectrum?

Aleta: Yeah, that's a great question because it's really not so easy to evaluate one's self and your point's a good one because those workaholics do tend to be PCS people and their abyss, what they're afraid of, what they feel inside, that terrible false belief, is that they're lazy and if they let up for one minute they're lazy. So they have to stay in constant work mode in order to prove they're not lazy. But underlyingly, they really do think they're lazy.
It's like I tell clients, no one can press a button that's not already there and that's their button. Now I'm not saying every single workaholic, but in your example, that just happens to be a very good one with a lot of people who meet that type.

I think some people don't realize they have this constellation until they're in crisis and then they come in and explore because it takes a certain degree of self-knowledge to really see yourself, to see your strengths, your weaknesses, your fears, your hopes. It takes, at least in my view, a combination of mindfulness and insight that really gives a full self-awareness. I would say if we're trying to tell people how they would know if they're a PCS person or not, you can often go by what other people are telling you. If people get angry at you and say "Oh, will you stop trying to control everything". And you hear certain things, like "Well nobody can do it as well as you, so you may as well just take it over". When you start to see people having negative, unfortunate responses to you, you start to get an idea that you've got some issues around this. And usually when that happens, people will say - this is what they tell me when they will come in to therapy. They don't come in and say "You know I'm a PCS person and I have these issues". They'll come in because of a relationship that went wrong or problems at work or something happened that made those defences go crashing down. Some people do come in and they'll say, some very introspective people will say "I've noticed patterns in myself". But I would say, it just - if people are wondering if that's what they are, that if you have a lot of depression, very frequent depression and frequent anxiety that's shame-based and based on needing to be perfect and needing to counteract the shame and you have trouble letting go of control and feel like you have to just be in charge, that there's a good chance you have this kind of personality.

Joe: We have a few questions. We have a little chat room going here and there's a few questions coming in that are essentially asking can a PCS person change these patterns and how do they do it? I mean, is therapy the only answer?

Aleta: Oh, I'm glad somebody asked that because the reason I wrote this book is because people would come in, you know, "I suffer from chronic depression" or "I have a panic disorder" and no one addressed what is going on with them underneath. The reason I wrote this book is to say "Yes, there really is help! There is healing." And the way to go about it, I would say is therapy. Certainly, you know, I hate to say this, but reading the book would not hurt.

Joe: Absolutely.

Aleta: What I tried to do is very gently lead people into being able to tolerate deeper and deeper self-awareness with self-respect and self-love and compassion and it's very possible to change. You don't do it by addressing any of those individual traits or spokes of the wheel. Like, okay, I'm only going to work tonight until 11:30. I won't work 'til midnight, you know, and everybody's gone at five. You do it by working your way towards that hub of the wheel, towards the abyss and confronting that sadness that's scared them for so long. And it may involve some mourning and grieving. Usually when people get there they say "This wasn't so terrible. I was scared of this all my life and it wasn't really so terrible." So, oh a million times yes. There is help for it. Not just coping but healing. There certainly is and I have seen it many, many times.

Joe: So, you talked already about people experiencing crises or a crisis in their life, and I mean that seems to be, from reading your book, that seems to be one way that people get to really address and heal these issues, when - almost as if the thing that they've been fearing, this abyss that they've been fearing their whole lives, they come face-to-face with it, and realize that it didn't kill them, let's say, that they survived and ...

Aleta: Yes, yes, absolutely. And I really like it when I get people who do come in in crisis, because they're very, very close. Now they don't like being in that shape. They're terrified and they're hurting a great deal, but when you get a PCS type in crisis, which you will if there's been a humiliation, you know, if they lost their job. In the book there's the person who loses the job who's sad because there's no money coming in but there's the one who's like "Well I'm just a loser now". They're very close to the core issues and you can address the core issues with them, you know, as you're addressing the crisis itself. And then what will happen is the person will be better off than they were before the crisis.

And as a psychologist, there's really no greater pleasure when somebody says at the end of treatment "I'm really glad this happened. I really was miserable before. And now I'm living a good life". So yes. Now that's a hard sell to someone who happens to be in crisis. I don't know if any of us does really well. I certain don't like crises myself but it's a good - it's a wonderful opportunity, truthfully, psychologically speaking.

Juliana: So could we say Dr. Aleta that when somebody's going through a crisis it's kind of like a call from the subconscious or whatever we want to call it, of the abyss even, screaming for some resolution from all those repressed things, as if the person was ready at that point to deal with certain things in which cases, this crisis would be a sort of gift?

Aleta: You know, yes. Yes. Oh you put it beautifully and I wish I had said it like that! It was beautiful. I agree 200 percent with that. I really do. I can't improve on that. That's exactly the way I see it.

Juliana: Okay.

Joe: So in terms of the abyss, would it be correct to say that all of the people that you have treated for PCS traits, that all of their issues or their abyss stems from childhood, or is it something that can happen later in life as well?

Aleta: Well I follow the school of thought that our personalities are formed developmentally in childhood. I know there is adult trauma certainly. Absolutely there is. But in terms of a whole structure, and we all have a structure and it's a complex structure. It has its roots in childhood. It does.

Juliana: You also mention in your book very briefly that people have PCS tendencies and you talk about different siblings, for example, getting a different experience. How much would you say is nature and how much nurture, if you know what I mean?

Aleta: Oh, I've been struggling with that one for a long time. I think I've practiced like 22 years and when I started out and I was just very defensively saying "it's all nurture" because I'm a psychologist, you know, and that's all we can deal with. But I've really come to see that the game of genes is very intricate and important. There are people with very small children who have told me that they'll have one and say "pick up your toys now" and the little one says "okay". And the other one will give mom a look like "you've got to be kidding". So I think nature really does play a part. I do think that when you have a childhood - I don't know what percentage of people have loving, safe, secure, appropriate childhoods. I don't know if my view is slanted because of what I do and who I know, (chuckles from everyone) but to me, to me it looks like life is just darn hard. And the trouble people, they just can't wait to get married and have kids and they don't realize what this will entail and there's nothing in high school to prepare anybody for any awareness. There's nothing. And so I really think it's both.

I think with what I call and what, well Winnicott is the one who said this, not me, but the good enough parenting I think will soften the negative and strengthen the positive. But I think you can see in sibling groups that they're just very different. Sometimes there'll be one sibling and everyone says "Oh, so-and-so was so selfish and a troublemaker" and everybody else is very nice. And I don't really think that that person was necessarily mistreated. Then there are people who have survived everything going wrong, it's just hair-raising and they end up very moral people. They end up like PCS people.
So I think when you get people from an abusive background who are PCS people, I think we're talking nature because a lot of - these are strong people if you think about it. They're afraid all the time and there's no order or safe time or place so they try to create and impose an order on a chaotic, dangerous world. And I think that's one reason the PCS person tends to be very intelligent and I think this is why they survive instead of turning into abusers or instead of having - developing a psychosis.

One of the things I don't like about my job is there are people I admire more than I can tell you, they survived things I know I couldn't have, and then to say to them "Now these are things that saved your sanity and your life, but they're not serving now. So now we need to do more work so that you're not like this." And I always tell them there's nothing fair about it and I'm sorry, because I feel bad, but there's nothing fair about it, but it is just the truth. And I think sometimes, you know in the sibling groups when they all have severe addictions and they're in trouble with the law and they're violent and then you have the one PCS person, I truthfully think that person had stronger genes. I do.

Juliana: Very interesting.

Joe: It seems to me that it's - the problem really is that it's kind of multi-generational, or it spans generations. It's passed on, the problem is passed on from parent to child who then grows up, becomes a parent and passes it on to their child. I mean, in your book you say "The abyss can also be a self-image based on how a person was described or made to feel as a child, a cruel distorted vision of one's self." This could be a parent who was overly judgmental or very critical of the child and the child - I mean, in one sense you say that some children grow up to not want to be like their parent was because they were mistreated, or an alcoholic for example. A person, a PCS person can grow up and say "I'm never going to touch a drop of drink" but a child who was harshly judged and criticized for a lot of his or her childhood may internalize that negative image of themselves and then go on to become a judgmental or critical person themselves, like their parents.

Aleta: Yes.

Joe: So that's slightly a little more complicated because it would be great if all children who were reared at the hands of somewhat abusive parents grew up to be the exact opposite, model citizens and wonderful human beings, but unfortunately it's not as simple as that, I don't think.

Aleta: No, it's not as simple as that. It is funny. There are some amazing people and you know, you can tell in the book, I have a soft spot for the PCS folks, even with narcissism, you can - it probably shows the respect and love that I have. But what you say is very, very true. And it's really not so easy. I think problems are multi-generational. There are therapists that do a gene - I don't do this, but they do a genealogy chart at the beginning and they go back because things really do get passed down. And many of them do do the same thing.

It's very unfortunate. It's very complex. I know that when I see the courage that my clients have shown and they cry and they share with me and they take me back with them, what they've gone through and they come out of the other end, I mean, one thing I do love about my job is I get to say to them "All of this crap ends with you. It's over. Your kids will not have it. It ended with you. Your line of whatever this kind of abuse was, or mistreatment stops." And then even people who were not abusive but who were critical and who mean well, this is just all they've ever known, like I said, they do the same thing. They're very achievement oriented. They're not aware of what they're doing. Again, you can say it stops with them, and to remember to consider feelings. But no, problems are multi-generational. You're completely right. I wish you weren't, you know.

Joe: Yeah, me too.

Pierre: In your book Dr. Aleta, you mention several examples of patients that identify the source of their personality traits, this PCS constellation, and identified which parents was the source of the issues and you give a recommendation about how to interact with the parents who's at the source and you develop in an interesting way, this notion of boundaries. Could you explain that a bit more? How boundaries can play a key role in the new way of interacting with the parent?

Aleta: Yes, I do have to just say up front, I'm seeing in my head two people right now it didn't work for. These were mothers in this case. They were just really, they were bordering on psychotic. It just didn't work with them. These were out of control people who, that was it. But in most cases, the setting of the boundary - when people do love their parents and they want to continue a relationship but they don't want it to be dysfunctional and they don't want to keep chasing after what the parent can't give, as they come to feel more adult themselves, they're able to say to the parent "I don't want to discuss this anymore. I don't want you to bring up any more how I failed a test in the fifth grade. If you do, I'm going to need to hang up the phone and discontinue the conversation. I'm not trying to be mean, but I also need respect. I'm an adult too and here are my limitations."

And now I'm kind of blurting that out. When you work with people, you do it in steps and they know how they're dealing with and how to say it best, but in my experience, people have had some pretty good success with setting the boundaries. They've had pretty good success with that. Most parents will really - well they'll test them a few times because, remember there are parents who are like 3 years old in adult bodies, so they're going to test. And they're going to resent this and it's going to be a new way of interacting, but if you gently and firmly keep setting those boundaries, and they want the contact enough, they will modify the behaviour. They haven't changed what they're like, but they've changed the behaviour enough for the adult child to be able to interact and not get so hurt.

Joe: We've had a couple of comments about therapy, some people saying that in the current state of the economy, a lot of people can't afford therapy, so in that case what do they do. And I suppose the answer would be at least to get your book and there's a lot of exercises in there that can be quite helpful.

Aleta: Yes, I think the way the exercises are in the book, and the way the chapters are, you could call the book a type of therapy almost. I mean therapy involves another person of course, but I think that someone can really go further. And I've had a lot of people write me, like from out-of-state and from other countries and they say "Do you know a therapist who does this kind of work?" And I can tell them what to ask for, see if the person is open to looking at the book.

I also want to say to people don't be shy about asking if there's a sliding scale. Don't be shy. Therapy is expensive. We have a ton of overhead, even though psychologists, you know in America we've been cutting down that overhead, but you still need an office. I mean, that's not going to go anywhere. There are certain things that you need, the professional associations to join. I mean, it's ridiculous what they cost. So, you know, there are certain things. But I know when people call me and they - and I've tried to keep my normal fee pretty reasonable for people even though they do have it. If they say "Do you slide the scale" - and I'm not the only therapist who would do this. I know - I'll say to them, "What could you manage?" And they tell me and I feel that people have been honest with me and we've worked something out. I've not been able to take every single person in every single circumstance, of course not, but I've really tried to do that. So I've tried to really help a lot of - afford a huge amount of money.

So I really would say to people, don't be shy, call up and say do you have a sliding scale for people who just simply can't afford that. And if the people say no, don't be embarrassed. Just go to the next one because plenty of people ask.

Joe: Previously you mentioned that you don't think it's a good idea for people with certain PCS traits, perfectionism, control, to attack that kind of head-on. For example, if you notice - if a person notices that they're very controlling and they have a little bit of maybe OCD about certain things, that certain things have to be in the right place all the time, that you think it's not such a good idea to just try and cut back on that? Just consciously say "Okay, I'm not going to - I'm going to let that one go to hell. I'm not going to try and control that particular situation or place."

Aleta: Well I think this is what people do as they get better.

Joe: Okay.

Aleta: And I think people who don't have it so severely do do that. That's, I think, a sign of maturity. So no, I think it is really good to do that and just say "You know, the hell with that one. I can't control everything." Well, just being able to do that has moved away from the PCS position.

Joe: In your book you allocate quite a lot of time, or space to the problems that PCS can cause in relationships, in adult relationships, between, for example, people dating or married couples or whatever. And you make a great point that I think is worth repeating for everybody to think about, is that people marry with no thought or training about their own needs but then become angry and upset when their partner does not or cannot gratify them. And it's not hard to see how that kind of marriage could produce children who grow up to have the same issues as one or other or both of their parents.

Aleta: Right. That's right. And also the children then have to meet the needs of the parents, which is not really their function. This reminds me of the question about is it a gift, something wanting to be recognized. I think, I would almost say, this is not like their god-given function to meet all the emotional needs of the parents. This is not really why people were born. But yes, that is true. What happens a lot of times is you get this little mediator who's a nervous wreck, who's trying to meet the needs of both parents and his or her needs just go forgotten. And I have adults who are still mistreated by the parents who are still protecting them. Because they've got huge empathy because they were raised to have that.

Juliana: And on the topic of relationships too, you mention the different, and why it's so important between interdependence versus co-dependence. Can you expand a little bit more for our listeners?

Aleta: Yes. Interdependence, by that I mean both people acknowledge having needs, and needing the other. They're not conspiring for any kind of dysfunctional behaviour. No one is denying being in need. So both people get to need and also to feel needed and appreciated. And this is something that's often very, very hard for the PCS personality because I've seen it in so many people where the relationship is faltering and the PCS person will keep doing more and more and more and more with the message "What would you do without me? You couldn't possibly manage without me." And the other person is like getting angrier than they were before. Because nobody wants to be the incompetent to partner with the person who needs to feel like they're needed for every single thing. No one really wants that.

Joe: You also mention, and I think it's probably fairly common, that people in relationships tend to - romantic relationships, tend to - one or other will in some way subconsciously try to fix their parent, or fix a parent through that relationship.

Aleta: Yes. Yes.

Joe: I mean that's obviously a problem because they're not really present in the actual relationship itself. It's almost a, I don't know, dissociative state where they're not really fully present with the other person. They're almost - and you mention also projection and projective identification.

Aleta: Well you know, the less insight one has, the less present that person is. Now I really respect the unconscious and I think it's always there. So I don't know if I think anybody is 100% present, but it would be nice to get to, like 80 or 90%. It is very sad. I mean, our issues do follow us. Some people wanted to fix a parent who was sick and they grew up taking care of a sick mom or dad and it couldn't be helped, it was just a sad situation. And they use it in a good way and they grow up and they go into the health field and they say "Well I couldn't save my mom's life but I'm going to try to help other people with their health".

And this is a good thing and some people whose parents are dysfunctional become wonderful social workers and they deal with families that are very chaotic and they try to help them. And you can be aware of this and do it, but when you go into a relationship and you're not aware, for the PCS person, there's the element of wanting to take away blame, self-blame. Because, say you have a parent who, you know, with bursts of rage or abusive, children blame themselves. And the parents often tell the children it's their fault. So what some people will do is unconsciously seek out a very volatile and they think "If only I can find the perfect behaviour and the perfect words, this person won't do this anymore." And in that way, they think - and again, this is not conscious, they think they can fix the parent and in fixing the parent, of course they fix themselves because if the parent's fixed, then it means I didn't cause, you know, dad to act crazy.

Joe: But that doesn't happen. They don't fix themselves in that situation.

Aleta: No, it never works but it's amazing how these underlying fantasies create these patterns and people will do it over and over and over again. There was one woman I saw, she was not a PCS person but she was like on the fifth abusive partner and not all men are abusers. And it's - she just kept - she was good at finding them - this doesn't justify the abuse, I'm not saying that at all, but what I'm saying is that unconsciously she was bound and determined to take an abuser and behave in such a way that he changed. And of course it never happened. It never happened. And she ultimately needed to face that horrendous life with her father and how she really felt about it. And basically start fresh. So no, that's the problem with things that we symbolize and try to repeat and fix and look for in adulthood, if they worked. But like you said, they never work.

Niall: Dr. Aleta, the problem of perfectionism, now obviously in itself in some contexts, to seek perfection can be a good thing. So if you have a skill you might want to perfect it for yourself and for others, but that's not the perfectionism we're talking about obviously.

Aleta: No.

Niall: I think it would be fair to say that the person isn't actively seeking perfectionism. It's more that if something does not meet their expectations, then they can be very disappointed. Is that getting it right? Ballpark?

Aleta: Yes.

Niall: Okay. And so, following on from that then, it's the expectations then that will - so in an extreme case like you just mentioned, somebody's going from one abusive partner to another, they're not really - they're not consciously seeking it out but lo and behold it's happened again.

Aleta: Right.

Niall: Is it because perhaps the unconscious dynamic that's playing is that they want "Maybe this time I can fix the person and perfect them and create a perfect relationship" or is it more that this is their idea of perfection? This is what they know.

Aleta: I think it's more unconscious. Now, not everybody agrees on this. You know, I'm kind of a psychoanalytic maniac. I admit that. Some people would say it's learned and this is what they know and certainly there are things like that, but in my opinion which - I mean I do think it's right, that's why it's my opinion - I think it's really that they're trying to perfect. I think that's what they're trying to do and I think they have - they're trying to get a clean enough perfect enough slate to erase feelings that have been screaming to come out and be acknowledged for a lifetime. I think that's what they're really trying to do.

Niall: Okay, they're seeking the perfection - would it be fair to put it like it's a perfection that will shield you from having to turn and face those emotions screaming at you from the abyss.

Aleta: Yes, that's very - that's perfect. And in fact, for all of the spokes of the wheel, for that list of traits, they all serve the same purpose. Perfectionism seems to be a trait that we all notice more and it's more of a pain really, you know, when we interact with the world. But yes, the purpose of it is, if you do everything perfect, nobody can criticize you. And the reason it would be bad if they corrected you is because you're already criticizing yourself. Now when you face that - you know, when you're able to say "Well I don't do very well with such and such" and someone says to you "You don't do so well with such and such" you're not upset, you just say "Oh, yeah, tell me something I don't know." Right? Because you know and you're not upset. You've already owned it.

Joe: Yeah, it's really heartbreaking because what you're describing is children who were denied the right to be normal human beings, which is imperfect. And they were denied that right by some kind of a trauma in their early years and they spend the rest of their lives covering up that pain caused by the trauma and hurt by trying to be something that it's not possible to be. It's such a - it's a real number that is done on people, you know, and it puts them in an impossible position.

Aleta: It really is very tragic, truthfully. I don't treat children. You know, I spent some years as an advocate for children and family services doing evaluations and I'm glad I did it for a while and I'm glad I'm not doing it now. One reason I prefer to treat adults is it's heartbreaking enough. Because if you listen with everything you know and with your heart, you'll hear the child speak and cry. And it's very sad. You'll feel the pain and I tell myself, you know as a psychologist, what gives me the strength, is knowing that legally my clients have their freedom. They can walk if they want to. To treat children - I really admire people who do that because it's very hard. And then you have parents who will pull the children out when they see that they have an attachment with someone else.

But what we're doing to children and watching this - and I watched some very severe cases, I mean I saw children who had IQs at age 6 in the superior range and they would be tested every year, every couple of years, and it would go down, down, down. And I got a call once from a university where they saw a teenager and they said "Now you thought she was gifted and we've got here as low average" which used to be called dull but they changed it to low average. But it's not good. "And why do you think there's a discrepancy? Do you think she has a learning disability?" I said "No. I think she had a horrible life and I think she couldn't concentrate and learning a bunch of stuff was very boring and in order to keep getting a good IQ the way the tests are, you have to have more and more knowledge as you age. And she doesn't. So she's going to look like she never was gifted." And the fact is she was. And the fact that she is.

So it's - I mean, I've seen this happen emotionally but I've seen it also happen in schools because children being traumatized usually are not good readers. They have a lot of - you know, reading takes a lot of patience and in English we have so many - we have more exceptions than rules, it takes a wherewithal to keep making mistakes and to learn. Doing it and for these poor children who can't bear to be wrong and they're so anxious, so they're mislabelled as slow and I've had a lot of adult clients who really were gifted people and PCS people are. I have to say this, they're brighter than average. They're an intelligent group and they don't believe it. They just don't believe it because of the things that happened in school. And that's another hit. I sometimes say to my clients, you know, sarcastically that abuse is a gift that keeps on giving and it's horrible.

Joe: Yeah.

Aleta: You know, but sometimes I just have to say stuff like that because I feel so bad.

Joe: Yeah.

Aleta: But it is very, very sad what we're doing. And it would be easy enough to really have a couple of workshops for high school kids, to have an elective in college that just taught a little insight. It would be easy enough and we don't - at least that I know of - we don't do it.

Joe: The system doesn't take care of that aspect of people's mental health.

Juliana: And it seems it's kind of like a global disease right now. When you were talking about people losing their IQ and you can see it year after year, generation after generation, especially in the last years, how society is becoming less and less intelligent or proactive and how do you see it on a global perspective, you know? Do you notice these changes in society and do you think that maybe the only thing that could help people would be a social crisis?

Aleta: You know, it's not that I want one, I feel like in the U.S. we have enough of them going on, god knows. But I mean, in terms of that big perspective in understanding your question, I hate to say yes, but certainly theoretically that might be a yes. Globally, I really see it as horrible. I mean, a lot of times when I just think of the wars and the conflict and well everybody calls narcissism ego, like, however that got started, but it did, but I look at that and I just think "Wait, this doesn't need to happen. Let's have a little mindfulness here. Let's have a little insight"." Globally, to tell you the truth, I'm pretty scared. I mean, I can whip myself up into a state of despair over many of the concerns that I have right here at home for me. And globally it's even - it's even worse. I don't see how we can be a whole lot better without addressing some awareness and mental health. I just don't.

Niall: The increase of awareness through the truth, whatever it may be for one's self, for the world out there, is the only palliative that has worked for me and I think that has worked for a lot of people.

Aleta: Mm-hm.

Joe: It's' interesting when you talk about in the U.S. and, you know, dramas and traumas in the U.S., it's interesting - it makes me think of the way, for example 911 attacks were used because behind - if you have a lot of people with PCS, and I don't know how many people, I don't know if you know of studies as to how many people would theoretically have this trait in a given society, but it's like that there's ultimately, regardless of the spokes of the type of traits that manifest in anybody, they all resolve down to a fear, an unrecognized fear. And on 911 for example, I remember thinking that this was a mass kind of evoking of that fear among the population that was then used to wage war.

Niall: Justify all kinds of things.

Joe: Yeah.

Aleta: Yeah.

Joe: Would you agree with that?

Aleta: I mean I do think that - yeah, I mean I basically do. I think people do have a lot of fear and I think - this is one spoke - I know we can't cover every line in the book, but the black and white thinking to me is scary, truthfully. It's very scary. I've always been on a (inaudible).

Joe: That's a PCS trait.

Aleta: Yeah, it is. You're right. It is a PCS trait. No, it is a PCS trait but it's also a trait of people who have problems that are more severe.

Joe: Yeah.

Aleta: But no, that was - you're right. It is a PCS trait but so are some other things. But yes, I think if you think there's only one right way to do things and that everything else is wrong, how can this lead to anything other than conflict? I mean, it really can't.

Joe: Yeah, the point that I'm kind of making though, that I'm thinking of is that you have a largish number of people, for example in the U.S. with these kind of traits, like maybe that kind of black and white thinking that is ultimately benign, you know. It's not a personality disorder. It's ultimately, it's not malicious. But it can be used by unscrupulous people in positions of power to get people to move in a certain direction, you know? And I don't know how much ...

Aleta: Right.

Joe: ... they could be aware of that or consciously aware that they can manipulate people in this way because of childhood trauma essentially, you know?

Aleta: I don't know if this sounds cynical or what, but I think there are people who are aware and manipulate. I mean, I'm aware and I think about this and I think people are very easily led and I wish it weren't so. I think they're very easily led and with the black and white thinking, yes, certainly they can be manipulated and this is why I think - I know, I mean a lot of times I think of this, of things that are going on and the troubles of the world. I think about it a lot and I care about it a lot and sometimes I feel bad thinking the work I do one-on-one, it's like a drop in the bucket, but it is what I do. But I will say to people "You know, now you've just shared with me when you felt shaky about this black and white belief that you clung to it even harder." Because they'll tell me that. And I'll say "What do you think?" because that's a gem to reach that, and to reach it on your own. And I'll say "What do you think that means and what can you keep with you forever? What does that mean?" Because I think that's really where you can manipulate people.

Joe: That's why I think it's excellent work that you're doing because not only are you helping people in their personal lives to live happier and more fulfilled lives, but you're also freeing them potentially from partaking in grand scale evil machinations potentially, you know. In the sense of it frees them from being so easily manipulated by their emotions. And you kind of give their emotions back to them, give control of their emotions them back to them.

Aleta: I really hope so. You know, it's funny back like a million years ago when I was in my 30's and I was seeing a psychoanalyst he said to me, he said - and I hated it, you know - he said "The intellect plays a very small part in what we believe and what we do." He said "We first have our opinions based on our emotional needs and then we use our intelligence to rationalize them." And I think he was right. You know, who enjoys learning that? But it is true and I think making it so that people can think, because you can find self-righteousness in any point of view and you can find self-righteousness in very violent brutal times. So that's really not the answer. The answer is freeing up the thinking like you said.

Juliana: Yeah, because it filters everywhere through society, the fears that we keep inside, filter through who we are in general, what we believe the authorities say and, you know, just makes for unhappy people. And right now, like you mentioned in your book, people are just coping. Antidepressants, superficial fun or relationships only to cope instead of realizing that facing that fear - and that's one of the main things that I got from your book actually, I really liked the way you explained it because it's not - it gives people courage actually I think, to look into the dark parts. You know, there's this whole new age moment or people who want to look only at the positive and have positive thoughts and the problems, you just carry it then with you. So I think your work is really important in that sense, that seeing the dark part, even when it's in a personal bubble, if you want, and what's closest to the individual at first, I think it can really free somebody's mind to actually looking at the world at large and feeling that they do have some control. They can do something.

Aleta: Yes I agree with you. I know when I was younger, I don't know when this hit me exactly or what I was reading. I was probably reading one of my historical novels, but it really hit me that everyone was human and had human feelings. And I remember thinking "Oh no, this really complicates things, doesn't it?" Because it does. We all want things to be simple and they're not. And then you think even if a government is doing terrible things there are still human beings there. There's just no way out of that. And that the human range is big - no I'm sorry.

Pierre: No, go on.

Aleta: No, no, I was finished.

Pierre: Okay. To go on, on the macrosocial scale, as Joe pointed out, these PCS traits can be used to influence people for nefarious political plans but while reading your book you list - you mention family as a big influence that can create PCS traits and I was thinking as well that also this idea as a whole was our modern society keeps reinforcing those PCS tendencies. Just a few examples: when you see these photoshop models on every magazine and every TV advertisement, that they're setting some perfection, unattainable goals for everybody watching it, or when you see the school system, this permanent competition for the best marks, the best high school, the best college, the best diploma, the highest wage, the highest position. Our whole society is permeated by those values that reinforce some latent PCS tendencies in us.

Aleta: Oh yeah, that's so, so true. It really is. And it's just horrible. I always think, if the family doesn't get you, society will. And it's awful because not everybody can be the number one in the class. And I'm not sure that being number one in any given thing is the whole picture anyway. I mean certainly it's not. Certainly it's not. And you know, I think that is the whole emphasis. Everybody wants their kids to do well on the standardized tests. There are people that keep giving them enrichment even though they're already good students so that they'll keep being ahead and appear gifted. And it really is terrible, everyone wanting to be on top like that.

I know how terrible it is because a lot of clients I've seen were people in their 40s and 50s who were very, very wealthy and successful in what they did and they said they were just totally empty. And they were having a real crisis and they wanted to do something else. And they would say "All I know how to do is make money for a company that makes money for another company that makes money". I don't know how that finance stuff works but I've seen, you know, a lot of people who were in that and they were so unhappy. They said "I haven't done anything for other people. I haven't done anything for the earth or for animals. This is all I've done." And they really were - they really were in crisis.

And I think we really - I certainly don't have any answers here, but I feel like we need to do something where people can do work that's meaningful to them and to others and to still be able to have a comfortable life. But we don't respect everything equally and we do respect too much how much money people make and it's just a mess. But I've seen firsthand the people that were in crisis and on the outside you would think they just have everything, their three houses and whatever. So I mean, it's not good for them either.

Joe: No.

Juliana: Dr. Aleta, I would like to go back to a point you made earlier when you were talking about relationships but now in general. You were talking about these fantasies that people get and basically the fairy tale that never comes true. But in your book you also mention how good fantasies are. Now, can you make the distinction because it's really hard, at least for me it's really hard to think, you know, of an ideal life or an ideal world or - you know, you kind of have a vague idea sometimes, but how do you get people to go from "I don't know what I want. I don't know what I'm meant to be doing" to actually waking up that part of themselves that says "I always liked this" or "I want to try this out."

Aleta: Well I'm a big proponent of fantasy. I think it comforts us. I think that's where creativity comes from. It is how we figure out what we want to do and how we know what we'd like. And a lot of the PCS people have no idea what they want to do and to me that's so sad because, you know, I've had a lot of fantasies and I think they've helped me. And I'll say "would you like teaching". "Well how can I know?" I mean, I know a lot of things that I would like or not like, based on knowing myself. You know, if you've got a horrible fear of heights like I do, I remember when bungee jumping became a big thing and I said to my husband "If someone gave me a million dollars, I wouldn't do it. That's horrifying to me."

But you know, I've had clients who said - one was a teacher and she said "I want a job where I'm appreciated all the time and validated". And I couldn't even think of one where you're - where that's how it is all the time. But the need for validation was so great that she couldn't even get to what she likes. But I do tell people, you fantasize away, even if you're fantasizing being President, which doesn't seem to me a great thing. But no matter what it is, look at it and what you like, what you like.

When I taught child development way back when, I used to say to them, "If some of you were" - and I couldn't go into all the PCS stuff, it was just one little semester and it was on development - but I'd say "If you like to tell people what to do but you're basically ethical and kind, you might want to consider being a case worker because you're supervising adults to protect children". And a couple of people hung their head and came to me after and said "I think I would love doing that but it isn't right to like telling people what to do." And I'd say "No, if you use it right, it's okay. If you use it right, it's a good thing because some people need to be told".

So I think really fantasizing and really letting lose with what you want, it comes to you. It's very sad to say "I have no idea what I'd like and what I wouldn't unless I try it." Because you don't have the time to try everything. You have to use what you know about yourself to put yourself there, and to know if you would like it or not. In my case, I started reading psychology as a teen and I thought "This is what I want to do. This is what I want to do". And I used to be a computer programmer at a young age and people would tell me their problems and I'd get reprimanded, rightly so, "get back to work". I was a technical writer. And I didn't want to get back to work. I wanted to hear what they were saying and I thought "Okay, it's time to go to school and just do this dream, take care of it".

And I think when people are too inhibited - I think they've learned a shame about what people call daydreaming. That it's somehow bad. But if you read a lot of fiction, whatever does it for you, like fiction or poetry, or - not things to learn, things that entertain you, I think it loosens something up and that's when you start to imagine yourself doing different things. And you will be able to say "This isn't for me" or "This is for me" or a category where like well, this one aspect I might have trouble with but if I could get over that, I think I would like it. So fantasy lets you really travel around in the absence of trying every single thing.

Juliana: I guess it's kind of like going back to a more - to your childhood or the childhood that you didn't have, right? When you were taught to basically behave like an adult or play was bad or it inspired shame in you or things like that, you kind of forget how to go back to that state where you don't have to be afraid of taking a step or imagining things. And it's very, very hard for most - for a lot of people I think, to go back to that and have fun or try new things and ...

Niall: If I can interject.

Aleta: Yes.

Niall: Just before Dr. Aleta answers there, something she said in her book that comes through very clear is that something that might, in this case block the ability to fantasize in a healthy way is because the adult child spends inordinate amounts of time as well as their energies, holding back in order to maintain that perfect façade in order to not - in order to avoid the abyss.

Joe: Criticism.

Niall: Yes, criticism and so on. And it's beginning to free those energies that would allow more creative parts to emerge and then you can start to say "Oh, I like/I don't like", you know.

Aleta: Yes, that's definitely true. As people do get freed up and they do face more things, the fantasy life does open up. I have a lot of clients, they'll fantasize the people who were abusive apologizing to them. And they'll fantasize playing hard to get for a while before they forgive them. And you know, they're wonderful fantasies. They really are wonderful fantasies. Yeah.

Joe: So there's maybe a caveat though that, I mean, fantasy - people could maybe ending up using fantasy and a fantasy life as a way to buffer themselves against - it could almost be one of the spokes.

Aleta: Well fantasy is one of the spokes along with self-esteem because the inhibited fantasy life is something that we just see so much in the PCS personality. And people have always said to me "It's hard".

Joe: But what I mean is, someone could get carried away with a fantasy and maybe dissociate a lot and live their life in a kind of fantasy world as a buffer against the abyss type of thing. And in that case it's maybe not such a good thing.

Aleta: No, no, that wouldn't be such a good thing. And I think with everything, there's the good side and the flip side. You know, it's like you were saying about perfectionism. There's a kind of perfectionism I'm describing in the book but if you're writing a paper, for example, you know, you have to edit it and you have someone else edit it and you go back several times to really try to make it so there are no mistakes in there, because that's your work and you want it to be as good as possible. You're doing it because you're in this agony about it being who you are. It just means that you want the finished product to be nice. There are very real reasons for that. So I think fantasy could be abused, yeah of course it can. I mean, and let's face it, if you look at - you know the poor schizophrenics. They're trapped in these nightmarish fantasies and you know, god forbid, nobody would really want that. But I think with the PCS personality, while there might be a fear of fantasizing too much, I doubt that somebody coming from that kind of personality type would really need to worry about doing it too much.

Juliana: Although the fantasies in the bad sense that Joe was mentioning, might come from expecting a perfect relationship, for example, dreaming of a perfect job or dreaming themselves as perfect.

Aleta: Yes, and that's where the beliefs need to change and the perfectionism needs to change. And again, that's using fantasy not in the service of good psychological health, but using it in the service of the bad, or the negative. That's definitely true. And if I could make one other point related to that with relationships a lot of people have said to me "You know, I really want to get married but I don't want to be disappointed. You know, I've been going with the person for five years. And I don't want to be disappointed." And what they're really saying is they want the person to be perfect and they're afraid if they commit - and I always say to them "You will be disappointed and you will disappoint and if there is love after that, whether it is romantic love or friendship or any kind of love, it's the real thing because it means being accepted and accepting with flaws and imperfections. And in fact they're endearing, really. Nobody wants somebody perfect." No one I know. So I think that really is part of it. So yes, I think that's a fantasy that would change when somebody addresses disappointment and the perfectionism that leads to that dread of being disappointed, to find out that your loved one is capable getting into a mood or being a little snooty. Everybody has these things. And that just has to be accepted.

Joe: PCS stands for perfectionism, control and shame but could you list a few of the other traits, the most common traits?

Aleta: Yes, sure. Well rigidity and black and white thinking, that's one. Another is, like you just said, a fear of disappointing others or of being disappointed. And another is needing to control things and sometimes people. And that's one that gets people into trouble a lot. Another is difficulty making decisions. And if you've ever seen that in action, that's really heartbreaking. Really heartbreaking. What I call the inhibited fantasy life or using fantasy in an unhealthy way, let's group those together. And then in relationships, needing to be needed, but being afraid to need. Those would be the big ones.

Niall: The analogy you have in your book is very useful. We've mentioned it in passing here amongst ourselves. Each of these are like a spoke on a wheel and at the centre you have the hub of the wheel, and there is the core self or the wounded part. And any number of these spokes can light up, maybe a life situation arises or a relationship issue, and two or three spokes together might, if you could picture them, light up if they're irritated or something, something is provoked. So what I really liked about the analogy in fact is that it kind of frees you from trying to think of all this in a kind of one-step, two-step, linear way, that we have to understand that all of these things are connected very much to a real centre, a real - or more importantly that the real issue is beyond the surface, beyond the diagnosis. "Oh, somebody" - you said in your book, it's very funny in fact the way you describe it. People will come in and they will tell you what their problems are and that's it. So "I'm Joe Blah, I'm a perfectionist and what can you do to help me with it." But when you get out the wheel analogy, they need to understand that, well there's a reason why you're a perfectionist and here you go. And you get down to the core issues which lie at the hub of that wheel. And perhaps you want to describe or explain a bit more about that analogy.

Aleta: Okay. Well to start with, when I was writing the book, I was kind of going crazy because books are linear. And I said to my husband joking around, I said "I wish I could get like a sphere and write on that and have people just turn it, you know. I really - how can I do this?" And then he said "Well why don't you think of this as a wheel with spokes and a hub. I was like "Oh, that's brilliant. That really says what I'm trying to do." Because how do you get out of being linear? And that's really what did it. And it is like a wheel because people come in and they say they have a whole list of "flaws" and I'll say to them "No, you don't really have ten, you've got one issue. You've got one, and these are just the symptoms. And granted those symptoms hurt and they become problems in their own right, but you still just only have one." And I think this is where the hope is. And it's not false hope. It's real hope because it's okay to be flawed. And I really don't think any of us would be here if we weren't. I mean, what would really be the point of a life if we were perfect? It's just not about that. I know it's not.

So I think having these circular, interlocking symptoms and just realizing there's a hurt in there, there's a hurt and if you face it, it's really not that bad. It's not that bad. It'll feel like a relief. It'll feel like a pressure is taken out. And that's what happens. And it's - yes I know there are therapies where it's like, if people are OCDish and they wash their hands 50 times, like okay this week, try to just get it down to 40. But what I care about is the pain that makes them feel so dirty that they need to keep doing it. That's what I care about. I don't care if they wash their hands a million times. That's not the point. The point is the reason why they need to do these things and have these things. And once it's faced, it's really amazing but there's a, like a softening to the personality.
One of my clients who's probably the most rigid person I ever had, very, very smart person and, you know, I saw him for like a year and he shocked the heck out of me and told me he was taking a Reike class. And I said "You are?" And I had mentioned in passing that I had taken it and enjoyed it. I didn't dwell on it. I forget how it came up but I didn't want to - I didn't want to say that much. I didn't want to alienate him because I knew he would say that was totally insane. And then he told me he was taking a class and really liked it and was really good at it. And he said "I hated being that way. I hated being rigid and judgmental." He said "I can't tell you how horrible it was and I couldn't help it." And he said "I feel like I just threw it in the trash." And it was really a beautiful thing to see. So I think it is very important to address these issues as spokes and to see them as inter-connecting and defending against knowing what that abyss is.

Pierre: Talking about the abyss, there are two quotes that come to mind that can seem a bit enigmatic at first and maybe you can expand on them. So those two quotes are as follows: "The most dreaded fears are of things that have already happened." And the second is "What she feared most was the fear itself. As is often the case when examining the contents of one's abyss."

Aleta: Okay, well the part about what is most feared, has already happened.

Pierre: Yeah.

Aleta: It has. The pain, the humiliation, the degradation, the feelings that one's humanity and dignity were taken away, which they weren't but it can feel that way. This is from the past. This - it did already happen. The trauma is in the past. Now the nature of trauma makes us feel like it's looming over us all the time, but it is in fact in the past. And visiting it in the past when you're safe and when you're adult and you do have certain freedoms, is very, very powerful.

Now of course it's not in the past if you have a protected abyss and you don't remember the past and you don't acknowledge the past and what it did to you. But what people have to get beyond is no matter what terrible things were done to them, and not all PCS people have had terrible things but many have. I've gotten a lot of emails, a lot of people just said their parents meant well but they were the same way. And then about half of the people really did have horrible abuse and it really takes some exercise and some work to go back there and to remember what was done and to really understand that someone bad can do anything to anyone and that's not who the victim is. It's who the abuser is. And that's very important.

And words really don't get you there. You have to remember to understand it, if that makes sense. And you know, one way is like, if you look at people with a terrible illness, you know, their bodies do things they wish they didn't but they still are human beings with dignity. Or I'm an animal lover, you know, an animal that was mistreated still has dignity and deserves a lot of kindness. So no matter who absurd or humiliated or degraded anyone has made someone else feel, it's important to look through the eyes of having a firm grasp on your own humanity and your own dignity and then what's feared will truly be in the past and stay in the past. If that makes sense?

Joe: Yeah, absolutely. We have a few questions just on medications. What's your opinion on prescribing of medications for issues that are PCS issues, essentially?

Aleta: You know, I'm not such a gung-ho drug person. I don't think there's any pill that will really help towards personal growth or help people become more aware and heal, but do think if somebody is suffering a great deal with depression or with anxiety, and sometimes that suffering is such that they can't even do the work to heal, I think then that medication can be a good thing. I kind of feel like medication is overused. There was some paper, I can't remember what it was, but several years ago that said that in the U.S. something like 93% of the population had been on antidepressants at some point or other.

Joe: Wow.

Aleta: You know, that's really sad. The whole thing is sad.

Joe: That's a real indictment.

Aleta: Yeah, it is. I mean, we're doing something wrong. Some needs are not being met. And it's - but when I was younger I just thought "Oh medication can't do anything. It's more pure if you just do the therapy." That was my black and white thinking. Now I really feel like there are people who could really benefit by the medication. Who wants somebody to just have a pounding heart and be up all night? I don't want anyone to go through that. That's horrible. I mean, I think medication could help. I think with the depression it can take an edge off. The part that I feel, that to me is sad and that I don't like is that a lot of people just go for the medication and don't address the issues. And I guess that's their choice, but it's not my favourite way.

Joe: No. So you're saying basically in extreme circumstances where it's really necessary as a kind of - as a way to facilitate the person to actually continue with therapy, they may be useful?

Aleta: Yes, I think sometimes it is. And now the thing that's funny is, PCS people, a lot of them don't even like to take, you know, an aspirin because of the control thing. So it's a funny thing. But I saw someone once who could not - it was so sad, just could not stop crying and had a horrendous life. And I said, listen, I'm really the last one in the world to be pushing drugs, this is so not me, but I really think you could benefit, and not forever, just to take a little edge off. It was like, "No, I have to do it myself. I don't want anything controlling me." But what ended up happening is I did refer him to a psychiatrist that I liked a lot. He was a down-to-earth guy with a sense of humour. He was really nice. And he did go on an antidepressant for like 5 months and they helped tremendously and then he started to wean off and he did great in therapy. Yeah, I just don't like when people think there's a pill for everything and you don't need to grow, you know. It won't work.

Niall: In your research or clinical practice, Dr. Aleta, have you found that dietary change can play any kind of role in either coping and/or healing?

Aleta: Well I believe that, yes. Lifestyle. I believe that complete. You know, again, I don't think it will get rid of issues. I was with a holistic practice back when I lived in Chicago. You know I'm in Florida now. But back then, and I really - I loved it, an acupuncture and chiropractor and people were advised on lifestyle and supplements. I think it's better to take something you're deficient in than to take a drug that by brute force, forces an organ to do something it doesn't want to do. I think there's a real difference. I think all of these things matter. To me the danger is in any discipline for any of us to think we have the whole picture, because we don't. But there were a lot of people I referred and I said "If you eat healthier and you do such and such, it's going to make a difference." And I think some of the holistic people, sometimes could forget, almost like the medical people and say "No this'll make you feel better." And it will but you're going to still have some issues. I really think that these - well I do believe in mind/body/spirit, so yes, the answer to your question is a big yes.

Joe: Okay. Well, Dr. Aleta we're kind of running out of time here, so - we've kept you a little bit longer than we agreed, but it's been really great talking to you. We've really enjoyed it and I'm pretty sure our listeners have as well. I'll just give the name of your book again. It's Fear of the Abyss-Healing the Wounds of Shame and Perfectionism. We've all read it here and it is a very valuable book and a very valuable tool for anybody who recognizes these kinds of issues, that they may have them in in terms of just overcoming them and giving some control, essentially of your life, back to yourself. I think that's what it's about because people are - with this condition are essentially not fully in control of their lives because there's a big part missing and this book by Dr. Aleta is a very useful tool in restoring that control.

Juliana: Yes, thank you, thank you, thank you very much for all your work and we hope you keep writing books as well.

Joe: Yeah, and maybe you'll get it into a hard copy sometime.

Aleta: Well I'm going to keep trying and thank you so much for having me. I really enjoyed it.

Joe: No problem. Likewise.

Pierre: Thank you very much for your time and thank you very much for your book.

Aleta: Okay.

Pierre: Thank you.

Aleta: Thank you. Bye-bye.

Juliana: Bye-bye.

Joe: Bye.

Niall: Bye.

Joe: Well, that was good. We hope you all enjoyed it. I don't know if any of our expert panel here has anything extra to add because the thing about it is that we have read a lot of these kind of books and Dr. Aleta's book is very useful in the sense that it come at it from a different angle and as Niall described it, it uses an analogy of the spokes and the wheel and it's very useful to kind of - you can read so many of these books and it maybe is only one of them, or even part of one of them that actually sets a light bulb off in your head that relates to you specifically. So I don't know.

Juliana: Yeah, and many of our forum members have read it too and I think one of the things that I like the most about it was that in a lot of books, you know, you can get a lot of - or part of the book kind of hits you, but I get the feeling that a lot of people interpret these books with these stories about narcissistic parents or whatever, as an excuse to actually "heal the inner child" but what they're actually doing is learning to manipulate better or to become more manipulative or to have a lot of self pity, while Dr. Aleta kind of focuses on, "Well you are manipulating. You're not asking honestly, for example, when you ask for something because you - or when you do something because you want to be loved." So acknowledge that you're manipulating and learn that there's a wound to begin with and then learn how to be honest, how to build real relationships and stuff. So I think it really adds something to the collection we've been ...

Pierre: And she clearly states in her book that the first step is to acknowledge that the abuser was the abuser and you were the victim. You were the victim in the past. And the second step is also to be aware that today you're an adult.

Juliana: And you can be an abuser if you don't ...

Pierre: You can be an abuser but you're not a victim anymore. So you cannot use this past victim stratus to manipulate and get pity and that's an important point isn't it?

Joe: Yeah, and on our point of - there's a question about whether or not - and people who recognize these kind of PCS traits which, I mean, the perfectionism, control, shame, black and white thinking, splitting, as we've discussed on our forum, there are a lot of very common traits that you'll see in almost anybody out there these days. So I think the question of whether or not - or the number of people that might have these issues, there's probably an awful lot that have it to some degree on a spectrum, you know. The question of whether or not you need to have therapy, either read the book - therapy's best then read the book, I think on our forum in particular, the process that we have kind of developed on our forum, just of sharing information and discussing these, is a form of therapy. Okay, it's not face-to-face, but we also try to, you know, do some face-to-face stuff as well, meetings when we can, but there is a way for people to deal with these kind of issues on our forum for example, by reading and informing yourself about all of Aleta's thinking. There's exercises in Dr. Aleta's book. There's exercises on our forum from other books. So it is possible. It's not a - it's not a dire situation where "I don't have the money for therapy, therefore I'm screwed. And reading the book isn't going to help me" type thing. I mean, there is a lot of self work that can be done with the right knowledge, and with enough knowledge you can do a lot of self work and then you can move into actually working with other people. Because technically, if you read enough of these books, okay Dr. Aleta spent many years and she's a clinical psychologist, but someone who's well enough informed on these issues and on their own issues, if they teamed up with another person, if they have a friend who is interested, they could effectively provide a type of therapy for each other.

Juliana: And it's rare to find a good psychologist too.

Joe: Yeah.

Niall: Yeah. The goal first and foremost is not to increase your intellectual knowledge, it's to increase your awareness, which is something different. And we mentioned it briefly while she was on air but it's also described in her book by way of analogy and case histories, that it's something subtle - you know, she'll try to explain it to you but it's not something that can really be read off the pages of the book. It has to be experienced.

Pierre: And also the process occurs on an emotional level, on a deep level, intellect is only a minor part of the whole thing and even when you hear those words, perfection, control, shame, it doesn't relate to you apparently. Maybe however, you should read the book because it may ring a bell and - well personally it didn't ring a bell. When I read this title I thought "Well it doesn't really apply to me" but I would read the book for the show - or to prepare the show, and then while reading and thinking about it and - I realized that, as Joe said, it probably relates to most of us. And again there are greys of shades. Different degrees. Different conformations. Different shapes. Some are small, just the shame or perfection, or the ...

Joe: The other thing is that I think a lot of people live such a controlled life, or they control their environment so much that they never actually come into contact or never have the experience of an interaction with other people or in a certain type of environment because they control their environment so much, they never had the experience where one of those spokes would be activated, where they would get to see that they do have these issues because they control their lives so much. So it can be kind of seamless for them. People can be living in a bubble, like a fish in water and not see that the way they're living their life is one of these spokes. And they can say "Well, that doesn't apply to me. My life's perfect." Yeah, because you're controlling it so much, nothing can get in. And that in itself shows that you've got an issue and you are living a largely impoverished life in terms of what it could be because you do have this fear. People can kind of anesthetize themselves to that fear so much, you know.

Juliana: They refuse to have mirrors from other people.

Joe: Exactly. And that's part of what our work on the forum as well is, too, the idea of a mirror will basically - it's not even a mirror. People need to be willing to actually experiment, to put themselves out there and to put themselves in what are essentially for them, dangerous positions. Because it will feel dangerous to them and in the back of their mind they'll recognize, "Well I don't really like that kind of a situation" and they think that's normal, but it's not normal. You see lots of other people dealing with those situations and you think they're crazy, but that's part of life and can be - you can have a much more fulfilling life by opening yourself to those kind of situations and facing those fears, you know.

Juliana: I think one of the key points too is something Dr. Aleta mentioned, is that people have to do it in a safe environment. And that's kind of what we try to create in our forum and for those listeners who don't know, we also have a breathing and meditation program and one of the key factors - it's called Éiriú Eolas. You can find it on I believe? Or dot-com.

Niall: Dot com.

Juliana: Dot-com. So

Pierre: And between ee and breathe is there a space?

Juliana: No.

Niall: No, it's one word.

Juliana: But the key point is stimulating the vagus nerve and one of the functions of the vagus nerve, apart from the fact that you will feel better with less stress, rejuvenated, etc., you will find that safety and that safe environment in which, through a series of exercises, you get to release some of those blocked emotions. And of course it would be even better if you had somebody to share it with because then you get to actually vocalize. And vocalizing is very important too. But even if you're on your own, if you don't have the means to afford therapy, there are ways like that one, or in the forum, you know, where you can actually build that relationship, that safe area where you actually - where the fear doesn't invade you so much that you don't dare look at it.

Pierre: And exchanging, sharing, is one essential step for healing and not only control prevents this sharing, but perfectionism and shame also prevent because if you have to project this perfect image, and you feel ashamed at the same time, you're really not inclined to share your weaknesses because your whole façade of perfection will collapse and you're so ashamed to show that "Well I'm not perfect and I need your help and what do you think about me or if it's not perfect maybe we should talk about it". And so it's a kind of tricky set of traits those PCS because it hurts you, it hurts others, through your inadequate behaviour and it also prevents you from healing somehow because you have closed yourself in this kind of jail, psychological jail. So it's quite interesting.

Joe: Alright. Well, we're getting near the end of our allotted time right now so I think we'll probably end it there. There's not much more to discuss on the topic that we can cover right now. So, we probably will discuss it further as a result of this show on our forum, so if you want to check that out, and join in the discussion at Thanks to - again thanks to Dr. Aleta Edwards for being a guest on the show. And thanks to all our listeners and our chatters and thanks to all of us for putting the show on. Mutual back slapping.

Niall: And thanks to Joe for hosting.

Pierre: Thank you Joe.

Niall: You did a great job.

Pierre: It was really good.

Joe: Alright. Anyway, until next week folks, have a good one and ...

Juliana: Dive into the abyss.

Joe: Jump into that abyss.

Pierre: Bye-bye.

Joe: And keep the faith.

Juliana: Bye.