Dr. Julia DiGangi
Train Your Brain

There is a surprising factor that limits your leadership potential – Unresolved trauma. Trauma is a disruption of the patterns our brains trust to navigate life. Dr. Julia DiGangi delves into how unresolved childhood survival strategies, once beneficial, become constraints to leadership in adulthood. Transforming these ingrained patterns is essential for unleashing true leadership potential.

Dr. Julia DiGangi
Listen Now
Show Notes

Dr. Julia DiGangi is an expert in neuropsychology, specializing in the connection between the brain, emotions, and relationships. Through her extensive research and clinical practice, conducted at esteemed institutions such as Harvard, Columbia, and Georgetown, Dr. DiGangi explores how the brain manages stress and resilience. Her work, extensively published in the scientific community, applies neuroscience to enhance leadership skills, improve entrepreneurial innovation, enrich parenting, and strengthen personal relationships.

Her professional journey includes significant roles such as working with leaders at The White House Press Office, advising global corporations, and supporting international NGOs and US Special Forces. In addition to her business and clinical achievements, Dr. DiGangi’s experience in international development and humanitarian aid has deeply informed her understanding of stress, trauma, and resilience. She holds a Ph.D. from DePaul University, with clinical training from a consortium including Harvard Medical School and the VA Boston Healthcare System, dedicating her career to fostering deeper emotional connections and intelligence through neuroscience.

“How do we take this pain inside of us and convert it into power? When you understand your triggers, you become unstoppable.” –  Dr.Julia DiGangi

Key Takeaways

  • The Brain’s Role: The brain is fundamentally a pattern detection machine, moving us through life largely unconsciously based on past memories and experiences.
  • Trauma Shatters Patterns: Trauma is defined as the violent shattering of expected patterns, causing confusion because it disrupts the brain’s meaning-making process. The pain of trauma lies not so much in what happened, but in our response to it – the belief that we are never safe again or can never trust again.
  • Suppressing Emotions Clogs the Nervous System: When we avoid feeling painful emotions, we “shove them down” repeatedly, leading to a lifetime of a clogged emotional pipe or nervous system.
  • Leaders are Limited by Unresolved Trauma: A leader’s primary limitation is their inability to see and deal with their past traumas. Childhood survival strategies that were once adaptive can constrain adult leadership.
  • Trust is the Antidote to Uncertainty: The brain is allergic to uncertainty, but seeking external certainty only breeds more anxiety. The opposite of uncertainty is not certainty but surrender and trust.

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Links for Dr. Julia DiGangi







[00:00:00] Mark Divine: Leaders are limited only by their inability to see and deal with their past traumas, I believe. So that becomes their primary limitation. 

[00:00:09] Dr. Julia DiGangi: A lot of times, too, our best survival strategies in childhood, which were wildly adaptive and intelligent, are the very things that are harming us and constraining our leadership.

[00:00:20] Dr. Julia DiGangi: As adults, how do we take this pain inside of us and truly convert it into power when you understand your triggers, you are unstoppable. And the other thing I say to people too, is like, if it’s a trigger, It’s never a surprise, right? 

[00:00:36] Dr. Julia DiGangi: This is another big twist, I think, for your listeners. 

[00:00:41] Mark Divine: Dr. DiGangi, so stoked to have you here today.

[00:00:44] Mark Divine: Appreciate you being on the show. 

[00:00:45] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Thanks for having me, Mark. I’m excited to be here as well. 

[00:00:47] Mark Divine: Yeah, it’s my pleasure. I’m really excited to learn about neuropsychology. Like to me, I would assume that anything to do with psychology had to do with neurology, but I assume by neuropsychology, you’re looking at the physiological aspect of psychological functioning.

[00:01:05] Mark Divine: And what does that mean? Neuropsychology? 

[00:01:07] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Yeah. So I am a neuropsychologist, which means I’m a clinical psychologist with specialized expertise in the brain. And, you know, psychologists are obviously incredibly interested in emotion and behavior. I have a lot of neuroscience training. I’ve conducted a lot of neuroscience research, and my expertise really sits in the intersection of the brain, emotion, and leadership.

[00:01:30] Mark Divine: Okay. 

[00:01:31] Dr. Julia DiGangi: And you really can’t talk about leadership. I think a perfect synonym for leadership is actually relationship. 

[00:01:36] Mark Divine: Right. 

[00:01:36] Dr. Julia DiGangi: So I  really study the brain’s effect on our emotion and our relationships. 

[00:01:40] Mark Divine: Terrific. Excited to talk about that a little bit further. How did you get interested in this? Give us a little bit about your background, your origin story.

[00:01:48] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Okay. I don’t, I don’t often get asked about that. So sort of a, A really windy road. So my father is actually I come from a lineage of psychologists. So my father is actually a psychologist. I never thought that I was going to be a psychologist. Oddly enough, of all places on the planet, I begun my career at the White House.

[00:02:06] Dr. Julia DiGangi: So I worked at the White House, I worked in the press office, I did several U. S. presidential campaigns. 

[00:02:11] Mark Divine: But you didn’t just land there. So what was the run up? Give us a little bit of the backstory, like how you ended up at the White House. 

[00:02:16] Dr. Julia DiGangi: I kind of, I kind of did just land. So, so basically I was a journalism major.

[00:02:21] Dr. Julia DiGangi: So I mentioned, you know, my father was a psychologist, my brother is disabled, my mother was a teacher of immigrants. So there was always a lot of emphasis in my household about people’s stories, about social justice. I like to write, um, that’s why I wrote Energy Rising, and I’m a very good listener. So I thought I would become a journalist.

[00:02:40] Dr. Julia DiGangi: I went to the University of Iowa for my undergraduate, and I had an internship, I actually just told this story the other day to a friend of mine. I got an internship, a daily paper in Iowa, and I was really excited about it. It was a great daily, and I had a mentor who really kind of helped me. I threw out an application to the White House.

[00:03:01] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Just thinking that I would never hear back. And actually I did hear back and they said, we’d love to have you come intern here. I really respected my mentor and I went to her and I was like, Oh my God, I just got this position at the White House. And she was like, well, unfortunately you’re going to have to turn it down because you already gave your commitment to this daily newspaper.

[00:03:22] Dr. Julia DiGangi: And I really respected her. And so I was like, I guess I’m not going. So I actually called the paper and explain the situation. And they were like, Oh no, no, no, no. You should definitely turn us down. Go to the White House. So what happened at the White House was incredible. I still don’t know why this happened, but I was in the press office.

[00:03:38] Dr. Julia DiGangi: And when I was there, the person who headed up. The radio show at the White House left to go take a job on the Hill and they were like, Hey, you, you’re going to fill in until we get a new person. So I was riding in motorcades. I was at all the press conferences in the Rose garden. I drafted the president’s 4th of July radio address.

[00:03:58] Dr. Julia DiGangi: It was wild. 

[00:03:59] Mark Divine: What, what president was in office then? 

[00:04:01] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Clinton. 

[00:04:02] Mark Divine: Okay. What a great experience. 

[00:04:04] Dr. Julia DiGangi: I mean, it was, I mean, to start your career there around leadership, it was, it was, astounding. 

[00:04:11] Mark Divine: That’s amazing. So that was all before your, your PhD, before you became a psychologist? Okay. 

[00:04:17] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Yeah, correct. So what, then what happened was, you know, I worked on, like I said, some presidential campaigns.

[00:04:22] Dr. Julia DiGangi: I worked for a very noteworthy political consultant, and I’m sure some people can relate to this. I got tired of the politics of politics. But I was very interested in how policy and activism could serve people. So I started doing a lot of international humanitarian aid, a lot of international development work, and it took me all over the world.

[00:04:44] Dr. Julia DiGangi: So I had worked now in Detroit, in Chicago, all over the U.S. I’ve worked in Latin America, Nigeria, South Africa, a tiny country called Lesotho. And what was really striking to me, Mark, Is that everywhere I went, things were wildly diverse, but always felt like hope. Rage always felt like rage. Fear always felt like fear.

[00:05:09] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Betrayal always felt like betrayal. And I started to say, isn’t it because I was working in a lot of trauma zones. I was working in a U. N. declared Disaster zone in South Africa, and I started to say, wherever I went on the planet, trauma seemed to look very similar, and so I became very interested in sort of the effects on the nervous system, and that’s when I ultimately decided to get a Ph.D

[00:05:34] Dr. Julia DiGangi: And I became a neuropsychologist. I’ve conducted research all over. So Georgetown, Harvard, Columbia, and really became deeply, deeply interested in how the brain really constructs our lives. 

[00:05:48] Mark Divine: I love that you got out into the world and had such, a diverse and like intimate experiences in troubled areas of the world to, you know, because not, not many people really have that experience that wherever you go, human beings are human first.

[00:06:03] Mark Divine: And they, you know, they may look different. They may speak differently. They have different beliefs and ideas, but like you said, underneath it all, we all deal with the same fears, the same anxieties, the same stresses, and, you know, learning how to deal with that and learning how to find or to see that commonality is, is profound for all leaders.

[00:06:21] Mark Divine: I think that, you know, I wish other people could. Or everybody could get out more and to experience, you know, other cultures and the nitty gritty level like that. So that’s cool. I can see how that really would shape your interest in neuropsychology. So what was the path from NGO work? You just decided to, to go to get your doctorate. 

[00:07:42] Dr. Julia DiGangi: I, yeah, I mean, I was working again in all of these trauma zones, and again, remember, like, my family of origin, my, my father was doing a lot of trauma and addiction work, I think, like, a lot of our families, I came from a family with a lot of trauma and addiction work, so, you know, and I think, like, a lot of our families are very complex, but they’re also very wonderful, and, so I, I always kind of had an eye on Human suffering and I work for international labor.

[00:08:06] Dr. Julia DiGangi: So I did a lot of post conflict reconstruction project So really working with you know, war famine orphans like deep deep trauma And there was some wonderful wonderful programs, you know, like rebuilding civil society programs educational programs physical health programs But I was like who is tending to?

[00:08:27] Dr. Julia DiGangi: To the emotional needs of people and you know the funders like whether it’s the U. N. or the U. S. government or the European countries are very intelligent, right? So they’re saying, like, listen, like, we know there’s a lot of emotional trauma here. But what is the science? Like, we’re not just going to throw money at something.

[00:08:41] Dr. Julia DiGangi: So how do we actually fix this? And so I have a pretty analytical brain. I have sort of a knack for science. And I said, I’m going to go empirically Study this question, like what does it actually take when we are in profound pain and again in our, in our countries, on social media, in our families, in our jobs, what does it take when we’re in pain to transform that pain into power?

[00:09:06] Speaker 3: Right. 

[00:09:07] Dr. Julia DiGangi: And that really is the premise of energy rising, you know, and it was wild to me. So I’ve been approached. I would say, you know, with some relative frequent cadence to kind of do public facing things like be an expert on a Netflix show or do a documentary and I always said no, I like to say I’m a Midwest academic.

[00:09:26] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Who likes to go to two good parties a year. And then the rest of the time I like to be left alone in my office. Right. 

[00:09:32] Mark Divine: I’m with you on that, by the way. 

[00:09:34] Dr. Julia DiGangi: So Harvard business review approached me and said, would you write a book on basically the neuroscience of leadership and the neuroscience of emotion?

[00:09:42] Dr. Julia DiGangi: And I said to have this opportunity, cause obviously HBR has an enormous footprint. They have so much credibility in terms of leadership to have this opportunity. To talk to human beings about human pain and human power. It was one of the greatest opportunities in my life. It was such a meaning, you know, and I hope all authors feel this way about their book.

[00:10:02] Dr. Julia DiGangi: But it was such a transformative experience for me. And I get messages now every day from people all over the world who I think, Are really being changed by the book because it energy rising is basically a blueprint for how to take our pain Whether it’s stress frustration irritation all the way up to rage and trauma and transform it into something meaningful 

[00:10:24] Mark Divine: That’s awesome.

[00:10:26] Mark Divine: Yeah, i’ve um Written six books now and each one of them is quite a transformative experience, right? They really do come through us and 

[00:10:35] Dr. Julia DiGangi: we do 

[00:10:35] Mark Divine: and and they change us, right? And for authors like us, I don’t want to speak for everyone, but my experience certainly was it was each one has been transformative and you change a little bit because the process of writing clarifies thinking and you get downloads and you know, there’s insights that you never Really understood when you started writing that comes out.

[00:10:52] Mark Divine: I got, 

[00:10:52] Dr. Julia DiGangi: I got chills when you said that I completely understand what you’re saying. You know, when I, I, um, I’m a scientist, I’m very well published in the academic literature, but to kind of cross over and write a quote, popular press book, you’re exactly right. Like that taking the hard science, because, you know, I think there was a lot of integrity in writing this book and like taking the hard science and converting it over into a way that It’s an academic, you really have to have control of that message.

[00:11:19] Mark Divine: Yeah. Oh, that’s terrific. I can’t wait to learn more. Before we kind of dig into that, can you define for us a few things like from your perspective, what is trauma and even what is, what’s the emotion, what is emotional energy and what is trauma? Oh my God. 

[00:11:34] Dr. Julia DiGangi: We could, we’re going to spend like, we could have five podcasts just on this.

[00:11:37] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Okay. How do I want to start this? Let me sort of back up and say, what’s a really useful and practical way to think about the brain. Okay. Okay. So, I think that, you know, depending on my mood, it either tickles me or, or kind of pisses me off, like, that people pay more attention to the intelligent operation of their cell phones.

[00:11:57] Dr. Julia DiGangi: We’re now chat GPT. 

[00:11:58] Mark Divine: True that. 

[00:11:59] Dr. Julia DiGangi: And they pay to the intelligent maneuvering of the most exquisite machinery they’ll ever own, which is their own brain and their own nervous system. So one of the things I think I do well in my career, and I think Energy Rising did really well was, was it’s a practical guide about how to use our brains.

[00:12:14] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Well, the first question is. What is the brain? And the brain is, most fundamentally, I think most practically to think about it, it is a pattern detection machine. Okay? So your brain is moving you through your life, largely unconsciously, going apple, apple, apple, fill in the blank. And I, I hope our conversation will evolve to talk about uncertainty, because I have a lot of things to say about uncertainty.

[00:12:39] Dr. Julia DiGangi: So, this fill in the blank moment is just the future. A synonym for the future is uncertainty. A synonym for uncertainty is ambiguity. In other words, it’s just unknown. So your brain’s going apple, apple, apple, and then it will predict what the next thing will be. Well, it’s going to predict it’s going to be an apple.

[00:12:58] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Does it have to be an apple? No, it could have been a banana. It could have been a pencil, but it’s going to predict it’s an apple. Now, overwhelmingly, this is very adaptive. We’ve all had the experience where we’re listening to a podcast, like yours, driving home, or we’re on the phone and we end up in our driveway.

[00:13:15] Dr. Julia DiGangi: And we have no idea how we ended up in our driveway, but there we are. 

[00:13:18] Mark Divine: Because the brain filled in the blank while you were doing something else. Yeah. 

[00:13:22] Dr. Julia DiGangi: So what the brain is neurophysiologically doing is it’s taking past data encoded as memories and super imposing it into future situations. 

[00:13:30] Mark Divine: That’s right.

[00:13:31] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Okay. So you asked me, you started asking me what is trauma and I’ve, I’ve been asked a lot what is emotion, but most people don’t ask me what is trauma. I’m going to give you what I think is the best definition. Thank you. for trauma. Trauma is, so if the brain is a pattern detector, trauma is the violent shattering of the pattern.

[00:13:51] Mark Divine: Wow. 

[00:13:52] Dr. Julia DiGangi: So, for example, if I go to my mailbox at night and I get assaulted on the way to my mailbox, The real trauma is, I’ve gone to my mailbox a million times. This isn’t supposed to happen here. So there’s a lot of people talking about trauma. You know, I’ve watched the mental health conversation now for 40 years, okay?

[00:14:11] Dr. Julia DiGangi: And it’s been incredible to watch it evolve. I think it’s such a richer conversation now. But the piece a lot of people still miss when they talk about trauma is a core component of trauma. Must be confusion, 

[00:14:25] Mark Divine: right? Lack of control. Yeah, if it make 

[00:14:28] Dr. Julia DiGangi: if it makes sense Then it, then it can’t be trauma.

[00:14:31] Mark Divine: Interesting. What about, and this isn’t like a gotcha thing, but um, you mentioned kind of your upbringing. A lot of people grow up in, you know, households that are less than nurturing. Let’s just be polite, right? For mine, a lot of, a lot of anger, a lot of abuse, a lot of alcohol being sloshed around. And so the little child with the undifferentiated mind doesn’t.

[00:14:56] Mark Divine: Have a pattern besides that, and isn’t that also trauma? You know, the violence isn’t interrupting a pattern, it is the pattern. And I believe that’s also trauma. 

[00:15:05] Dr. Julia DiGangi: You’re entirely right. So, one of the things about being any scientist, including a trauma scientist, is operationally defining what we’re talking about.

[00:15:12] Dr. Julia DiGangi: That’s right, 

[00:15:12] Mark Divine: yeah. So 

[00:15:13] Dr. Julia DiGangi: one of the things we struggle with a lot in trauma research is, trauma’s not a monolith. So, here’s just a few of the questions we sit with, okay? Who did the trauma happen to? Who perpetrated the trauma? How many times was the trauma happened? At what stage of development did it happen?

[00:15:29] Dr. Julia DiGangi: When you told your caretakers about your trauma, did they take swift action? Were your caretakers the very perpetrator? Yes? 

[00:15:36] Mark Divine: Yeah. It’s complex. In fact, trauma, like the trauma work that I do with veterans, we talk about that complex trauma because what we’ve noticed in the Courage Foundation, which is our foundation, is that a lot of times If not most of the time, the trauma from war is the lesser of the traumas or said another way it magnifies the underlying childhood trauma.

[00:15:56] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Well, I’ve done a lot of work with combat veterans. Have you? Yeah. So I did. I’ve done a lot of trauma treatments. A lot of you might be from prolonged exposure. Yes. So the three most evidence based treatments are PE, prolonged exposure, CPT, a lot of people have heard of CBT, CPT is cognitive processing therapy, and then EMDR.

[00:16:14] Dr. Julia DiGangi: So when we treat trauma. What we treated clinically and when I, you might think that this is interesting and I think you already know it on some level and maybe you even know it explicitly. So when we both treat trauma and we study trauma empirically, we ask people for all their traumas. Okay. And we say like, and to your point, let’s just use a combat veteran as an example, but this applies across the board.

[00:16:37] Dr. Julia DiGangi: There could be combat trauma, but then there’s almost always. And when I say almost always, I mean, almost always many, many more traumas. And so we ask people and this is a really important point for your listeners. What is what we call the worst, we call it the index trauma or the worst traumatic event.

[00:16:57] Dr. Julia DiGangi: And if we do trauma treatment on something that’s less than the worst traumatic event, we do not meaningfully expect. For example, the PTSD symptoms to attenuate because what’s happening is your brain is saying, okay, okay, okay, okay. We can deal with this trauma because it’s not so bad. It’s a 

[00:17:18] Mark Divine: little safer.

[00:17:19] Mark Divine: Yes. 

[00:17:19] Dr. Julia DiGangi: But there’s no way I’m actually going to process this other trauma. 

[00:17:23] Mark Divine: Since a lot of those, you know, like master trauma, we’ll just call it, or the main thing trauma happened often. at a young age and the memories of them are suppressed or repressed, like, and so the individual can’t actually access it.

[00:17:38] Mark Divine: How do we get them to access it so that we can work on that main thing? 

[00:17:43] Dr. Julia DiGangi: You’re making a really great point. So I, I want to just say something about energy rising. So energy rising is, I wrote it in what I call eight neuro energetic codes. So each code is a blueprint for how to work with your nervous system.

[00:17:56] Dr. Julia DiGangi: And again, the premise is how do we take this pain inside of us? and truly convert it into power. And by the way, when I talk about emotions as an energy, I’m not talking about this metaphorically. I’m not talking about it metaphysically. I am talking about this neurophysiologically. Emotions are quite literally neuroelectrical impulses.

[00:18:17] Dr. Julia DiGangi: They are neuroelectrical energy. This is the only reason I can do my fMRI and EEG research is because I’m detecting neurophysiological impulses. Neuroelectrochemical signals. Okay. So, you know, I think a big part of the idea here is so the fifth code or the fifth blueprint is basically what happened to us in childhood.

[00:18:37] Dr. Julia DiGangi: And in childhood, you know, I’m just going to give you one statistic, but what happens to brain development in childhood is astounding. In years zero through three, more than a million neural connections are made. Every. Single. Second. 

[00:18:55] Mark Divine: That’s extraordinary. I was, I thought you were going to say every day, every second, 

[00:19:00] Dr. Julia DiGangi: every second.

[00:19:01] Dr. Julia DiGangi: We now have. Information that shows, research that shows that learning begins in utero. Of 

[00:19:07] Mark Divine: course, yeah, that makes a lot of sense to me. Why wouldn’t it, right? As soon as the brain is largely formed. Thumbs up, fine. 

[00:19:14] Dr. Julia DiGangi: But to your point here is, and I want to go back to this idea of both trauma and the brain being a pattern detection machine.

[00:19:23] Dr. Julia DiGangi: And I would love to hear your thoughts on this. When we talk about the pain of trauma, the sort of the scourge of trauma, trauma is not so much about what it did to us. 

[00:19:34] Mark Divine: Right. It’s our response. It’s about 

[00:19:36] Dr. Julia DiGangi: what it does to us. 

[00:19:38] Mark Divine: That’s right. 

[00:19:39] Dr. Julia DiGangi: So this idea that like, I wasn’t safe then, I’m never safe again. I couldn’t trust you then, I can never trust anyone ever again.

[00:19:49] Mark Divine: Right. 

[00:19:50] Dr. Julia DiGangi: People in power abuse me. People in power will always abuse me. So you see, it’s, it’s the trauma that lives in, in the nervous system. The reason I actually called Energy Rising, Energy Rising, and I thought a lot about the title. I thought more about the naming of, I have two little kids, and I thought more about the naming of Energy Rising than I did my own kids, is the human physiology knows what to do with waste.

[00:20:16] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Okay, so we eat food, we pass it, we take in oxygen, we let go of carbon dioxide, like every 27 days, our skin cells go away. But there’s something singular about emotions, about painful emotions, that when we have painful emotions that are in our nervous system, instead of just letting the energy rise, and by letting the energy rise, I mean just simply feeling the emotion and letting it pass, we What most people do because the experience is so aversive, it is painful to feel our negative feelings.

[00:20:48] Dr. Julia DiGangi: They keep it inside and they shove it down and they shove it down and they shove it down and they shove it down. And then you have a lifetime. Of a clogged emotional pipe, a clogged nervous system, 

[00:21:01] Mark Divine: right? I love how you talk about that. 

[00:21:04] Dr. Julia DiGangi: And so when that what happens is somebody cuts me off at a stop sign on Monday and I’m pissed off about it sideways until next Tuesday, you see, because the energy can’t really flow in an intelligent way.

[00:21:18] Dr. Julia DiGangi: And so trauma processing and the work that we do on people’s nervous systems. I mean, not all of us have intense trauma that requires trauma processing, but I think this single greatest thing that, and I, and I hope to talk to you about this is to stop avoiding our painful feelings. 

[00:21:38] Mark Divine: Yeah. I mean, you have to face it head on.

[00:21:40] Mark Divine: That was my whole last book, Snowing on the Wolf is about that. Facing your fear and I’m dealing with the trauma triggers and the responses because that’s where the. The treasures of leadership are found there because, you know, we started out talking about leadership. Leaders are limited only by their inability to see and deal with their past traumas, I believe.

[00:22:01] Mark Divine: So that becomes their primary limitation. And so they end up overcoming that with perfectionism or righteousness or needing to be in charge or, you know, whatever, however they show up. is going to be based upon whatever, whatever structures there were put in place to protect themselves from traumas of earlier life.

[00:22:21] Dr. Julia DiGangi: I think that you’re so on point here. I always say understanding the brain helps people really understand where leadership breaks down and anyone can lead. On the days when it’s easy. 

[00:22:32] Mark Divine: Yeah, we used to say everyone, everyone could be a frogman on a sunny day as a Navy SEAL. 

[00:22:37] Dr. Julia DiGangi: I think it’s worth making this point here, right?

[00:22:39] Dr. Julia DiGangi: It’s like right now the world is having a moment where a lot of people are talking about, pick it, authenticity, transparency, inclusion, empathy. Well, on the days when everybody’s listening to me. I’m happy to include you. And agreeing with 

[00:22:56] Mark Divine: me. On 

[00:22:57] Dr. Julia DiGangi: the days when I have no fear that you’re going to take this information and use it in any way to harm me, I’m happy to be transparent with you.

[00:23:07] Dr. Julia DiGangi: When do these big lofty ideas of collaboration and connection and transparency and inclusion and belonging break down? They always and only break down in the fire of bad feelings. It only breaks down on the days when I’m afraid. It only breaks down on the days when I feel rejected. It only breaks down on the, on the days when I feel overwhelmed.

[00:23:28] Dr. Julia DiGangi: So I completely agree with you. If we want to strengthen our leadership, it is always and only forged in the fire of these fierce emotions. A hundred percent. 

[00:23:38] Mark Divine: We do a lot of breath work and a lot of, you know, things to, to get out of fight or flight, right? To get back into homeostatic balance. And that’s a really, a necessary step, right?

[00:23:47] Mark Divine: In the SEALs we would say, pause, breathe, think about it, and then act, right? Instead of just immediately reacting. But you mentioned different responses beyond just fight or flight or, you know, kind of rest and recover. So what are, what are those five different stances or responses? 

[00:24:04] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Oh, in terms of like when we get triggered?

[00:24:06] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Yeah, when you get 

[00:24:07] Mark Divine: triggered. 

[00:24:07] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Because I think too, like when you understand your triggers, you are unstoppable. And the other thing I say to people too is like, If it’s a trigger, it’s never a surprise. 

[00:24:19] Mark Divine: Right, because it’s happened before. Many, many times. 

[00:24:21] Dr. Julia DiGangi: By virtue of it being a trigger, it has I sometimes make a joke that nobody ever comes to see me because they got hit in the face with a 2×4.

[00:24:29] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Like the first time I get hit in the face with a 2×4 

[00:24:31] Mark Divine: The wrong doctor. 

[00:24:33] Dr. Julia DiGangi: That’s horrible. Let’s never do that again. You know, the brain in some ways does not distinguish between emotional pain and physical pain. It’s like some of the same structures are involved in pain processing. But the difference between physical pain and emotional pain a lot of times is that if I burn my hand on a hot stove, I’ll never do that again.

[00:24:53] Dr. Julia DiGangi: In other words, my brain will encode itself to like never put my hand on that hot stove again. In neuropsychology, we call it one trial learning. But if you think about most of the pain in your life, Your frustration with your coworkers, your anger at home, your disappointment with people on social media, they are all necessarily chronic.

[00:25:15] Dr. Julia DiGangi: You know, nobody ever comes to talk to me about the one time they got in a fight with their spouse in 1987, right? So it’s like, there’s this chronicity to our emotional pain. And so I think when we understand, like, We do ourselves a big service when we stop pretending like we’re surprised by our triggers.

[00:25:31] Dr. Julia DiGangi: So our body responds in one of five ways. The first is fight, right? We get aggressive, we get combative, we all understand it, we’ve probably all been there. The second is to run, to flee, right? And this is a lot avoidance. A big one that people are now talking about these days is freeze. So you asked me to do something and I just kind of like, I don’t really have an 

[00:25:53] Mark Divine: answer.

[00:25:53] Mark Divine: A lot of people froze during COVID. 

[00:25:56] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Yeah. 

[00:25:56] Mark Divine: They didn’t know what to do. That’s the ultimate uncertainty is people just stand in place. And then that was exacerbated with everything else, lockdowns and everything. 

[00:26:05] Dr. Julia DiGangi: It is. I think the brain is the most extraordinary, extraordinary machine. on the entire planet.

[00:26:12] Dr. Julia DiGangi: And so I think a lot of times we have shame about like we’re frustrated by ourselves or we have shame like why did I freeze or why why was I languishing or why? But if you really think about what freeze is, it’s an incredibly adaptive state in the face of acute trauma. If there’s predation involved, if I’m a prey and a predator is coming after me and I freeze perfectly because the fear and the danger is so acute, That might save my life.

[00:26:42] Dr. Julia DiGangi: So when we’re in situations where we feel like the danger is so incredibly high, we’ll basically freeze and leave our bodies. And to put this into the human world, a classic example, and this is a very extreme example, but I want people to see it, is you’ll have, you know, another term for freeze can sometimes be dissociation.

[00:27:00] Dr. Julia DiGangi: So if I’m being physically abused, I’m being sexually or physically abused, it’s very adaptive for me to leave my body. Okay. 

[00:27:08] Mark Divine: That, that’s necessary for survival. Exactly. 

[00:27:10] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Absolutely. So again, like the brain is really trying to protect us. We just have to understand how to intelligently engage with the machinery.

[00:27:18] Mark Divine: What are the other two responses? 

[00:27:19] Dr. Julia DiGangi: The fourth one is FON. 

[00:27:22] Mark Divine: FON. Oh, yes. I’ve heard this. 

[00:27:23] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Mm hmm. So FON is when we feel a lot of what, we got this, this coding, we got this blueprint and you know, think about your brain like a computer, we were all coded in our childhoods. We got this coding from our parents that we could not speak truth to power.

[00:27:38] Dr. Julia DiGangi: We had to kind of, you know, be on our best behavior, make sure mommy and daddy were okay. Take care 

[00:27:42] Mark Divine: of the perpetrator. 

[00:27:43] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Exactly. 

[00:27:44] Mark Divine: You see this a lot in prisoner of war situations, right? 

[00:27:48] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Say more about that. 

[00:27:48] Mark Divine: Through torture, the, you know, the, the fawning process, right? Is unlocked where the, the torture then starts to codependently take care of the torturer, like Stockholm syndrome and whatnot.

[00:28:00] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Exactly. So, and again, super adaptive. And a lot of times, too, our best survival strategies in childhood, which were wildly adaptive and intelligent, are the very things. That are harming us and constraining our leadership as adults. And then the fifth one is what I call fall apart. So this is somebody who you mentioned perfectionism early, like they get one thing wrong and the whole thing is ruined.

[00:28:26] Dr. Julia DiGangi: One person doesn’t agree and the project is over. One person signals their dissent and they can no longer have a relation. It’s, in other words, their ability, their sort of ego structure’s ability, and I don’t, I mean ego more in a Freudian sense, like my ability to like, hold my identity, is so fragile that any kind of minor infraction Is actually a catastrophe.

[00:28:51] Mark Divine: That sounds a lot like fleeing, but you’re fleeing is actually removing yourself. This is just blowing it up. 

[00:28:57] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Yeah, and you can see they all obviously have, they overlap, 

[00:29:00] Mark Divine: yeah, and 

[00:29:00] Dr. Julia DiGangi: diagrams that are going to overlap. 

[00:29:02] Mark Divine: Right. That’s fascinating. So now, with that, thank you for that. That’s awesome. In your book, Energy Rising, When someone is triggered, like in a, and they’re, they’re about ready to head into danger zone, how do we, like, what’s the first step?

[00:29:17] Mark Divine: How do we get out of that? I mentioned pause and breathe, like teaching people just to stop everything and to watch, you know, just not engage with that reaction that’s arising, but that takes a lot of practice. Yeah. 

[00:29:28] Dr. Julia DiGangi: So, you know, I get, I get asked this question all the time. When the toddler is in the middle of a meltdown, what can you do to help the toddler?

[00:29:35] Dr. Julia DiGangi: The answer is you let the meltdown pass. Right? Let the meltdown pass. And in fact, in fact, the more you engage, do you have kids? 

[00:29:42] Mark Divine: I do, yeah. You 

[00:29:43] Dr. Julia DiGangi: might probably, the more you try to soothe them or maybe this or let me explain, it just exacerbates the whole thing. So if we’re serious about changing our relationship with our lives, our emotional power, our nervous systems, we got to think more upstream because by the time I’m really triggered, my frontal lobe is offline and what’s really controlling my behavior now is this limbic system.

[00:30:05] Dr. Julia DiGangi: So the work really is like, again, we were kind of laughing about it earlier, but like, what are my triggers? Now I want to say something here because what happens. Is people will say, and this is such a powerful shift for people, they’ll start to list their triggers. They’ll say this thing that’s due next week, this person, that person, the thing that they said, the thing they’re going to say.

[00:30:27] Dr. Julia DiGangi: So they kind of go situation by situation by situation by situation. There is almost no power. In our situations, right? Okay, so I said the brain is a pattern detector and the example I gave earlier is that the brain is going apple, apple, apple, except the brain is not actually moving you through your life going apple, apple, apple.

[00:30:48] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Your brain is actually moving you through your life based on these emotional codes or these emotional patterns. So I say to people, I hope you have a good emotional code, but most people come to me to take their painful parts and convert them into more powerful, resilient parts. So I say, what is your core emotional code that’s causing you pain?

[00:31:11] Dr. Julia DiGangi: I’ll give you a few examples. I’m sure you’ll recognize some of them. Things never work out for me. Things never work out for me. Things never work out for me. Or Nobody listens to me. Nobody listens to me. Nobody listens to me or I’m no good. I’m no good I’m no good. And so then I get into a situation at Starbucks where somebody gets my order wrong And I’m pissed off about it.

[00:31:38] Dr. Julia DiGangi: I’m not just like annoyed for two seconds, I’m like mad. Why? Because what’s happening here unconsciously is the activation of this unconscious emotional pattern that nobody listens to me. And if people really took me seriously, they would understand that I wanted skin milk, you know, and this whole thing starts.

[00:31:58] Mark Divine: Right. 

[00:31:59] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Okay. You know, one of the pieces here, and it’s going to sound wildly big, but it is so true. The whole of human consciousness rises on the energy of emotion. 

[00:32:09] Mark Divine: A hundred percent. I agree with that. Yeah. Cause it’s all based upon memory. Memory is forged in the crucible of trauma because we, we tend to Not so much remember the good things we remember the the bad things and it’s not the thing that we remembered that’s remembered It’s the story around it.

[00:32:27] Mark Divine: Like you said, it’s the it’s the future story And so you might have a few but I love that you boil it down to everyone’s got one Generally like one core kind of 

[00:32:37] Dr. Julia DiGangi: code background 

[00:32:38] Mark Divine: code that is always running Very rarely verbalized, right? 

[00:32:42] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Very rarely. 

[00:32:43] Mark Divine: But it’s there. And that’s going to color, like energy, you said, emotion is energy, so that energy is going to color your world.

[00:32:51] Dr. Julia DiGangi: And a lot of people think, very understandable, it seems kind of intuitive, you know, if I had one word to describe all my work, it would be either counterintuitive or opposite. People think that the situation. Is what is going to cause the emotion. Yeah, 

[00:33:05] Mark Divine: no, everything’s a projection, right? It’s the emotion that causes how you, how you, yeah, how you perceive the situation.

[00:33:13] Dr. Julia DiGangi: And just to give you a couple of empirical examples about this is a great example. So I’ve done a lot of work on, I think I mentioned PTSD and trauma, a lot of stuff in the academic literature and what we understand, everyone has heard of PTSD. post traumatic stress disorder, but the analog to post traumatic stress disorder is something called post traumatic growth.

[00:33:33] Dr. Julia DiGangi: And we, we study this concept empirically as well. So two people can be exposed to very similar traumas, combat, childhood abuse, childhood sexual abuse, and people have very different responses. Well, why? Right? So, so we used to think that the event, the trauma itself was predicted. The trauma itself explains less than 10 percent of the variance in terms of post traumatic functioning.

[00:34:02] Dr. Julia DiGangi: That’s amazing what I just said. 

[00:34:04] Mark Divine: That is amazing. 

[00:34:05] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Right? It’s like, okay, so when we have pain in our lives, it’s so easy and I’m sure you’ve worked with people. I have certainly worked with people who have endured so much trauma that if they said, I’m never getting up again, I’m never getting up again. No one would even blame them 

[00:34:24] Mark Divine: for sure, for sure.

[00:34:26] Mark Divine: And yet they have a choice. And oftentimes those individuals who have suffered the most. end up breaking through and thriving the most, which is interesting. Well, I 

[00:34:34] Dr. Julia DiGangi: think that you, they become this evidence based, this standard for human resilience. I could sob talking to you about it. I mean, I’m thinking of a very specific, I do coaching with leaders.

[00:34:46] Dr. Julia DiGangi: I do a lot of work with leaders, but I also have a clinical practice and treat patients. I’m thinking one of my patients right now, like, It’s the work, the trauma work is very heavy, but it’s also gorgeous and wildly inspiring because you, you see the power of the human spirit and just, 

[00:35:03] Mark Divine: it’s extraordinary.

[00:35:04] Dr. Julia DiGangi: It really is. 


[00:40:02] Mark Divine: Tell us about, I know, um, we’ve only have a few minutes left here, but you mentioned eight different codes. I think it’d be fascinating for the listeners to just get a sense for what those are, you know, as pointers to, you know, work to be done or things to look out for. 

[00:40:16] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Yeah, let me, you know, maybe I’ll pick like a couple to kind of a little bit of, so one of the codes I wrote about was uncertainty.

[00:40:24] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Okay. And the reason I had to write about uncertainty is the human brain is effectively allergic to uncertainty. So there’s tons of uncertainty in our lives and our businesses and the world with AI, with social media. So what is the most powerful way that we can respond to uncertainty? So maybe should I give a little bit of.

[00:40:44] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Okay. this. Yeah, please do. 

[00:40:46] Mark Divine: Yeah. I have my thoughts on it, but I want to hear yours. Obviously. That’s great. 

[00:40:50] Dr. Julia DiGangi: I’d love to. Do you want to start? Like, what do you think about it? 

[00:40:53] Mark Divine: Well, you’re right. I, I, I believe that trauma is induced when people feel out of control. And so as a child, of course, you’re going to be out of control much of the time.

[00:41:03] Mark Divine: So if you’re not feeling safe, then this feeling of out of control. And so being out of control, When faced with uncertainty, you’re going to look for either patterns, to use your term, or you’re going to move to some other territory where you feel there’s going to be more certainty or you’ll be able to regain some control.

[00:41:22] Mark Divine: And almost always that’s back into some pattern that served you in the past. 

[00:41:26] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Isn’t that the truth? 

[00:41:27] Mark Divine: Yep. And it’s not going to serve you in the future. Right. 

[00:41:30] Dr. Julia DiGangi: But I think too, to just really have reverence for how hard How hard the work is. There’s all these statistics. Like before February, like 90 percent of new year’s resolutions fail.

[00:41:41] Mark Divine: Right. 

[00:41:42] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Right. You know, companies spend millions and millions and millions of dollars to produce change and overwhelmingly like 85 percent of them fail. It’s like, is that because people didn’t want the change? No, I think people mean exactly what they say a lot of times. I think what happens is the emotional resistance, the work of change, It is really hard, but when we do it intelligently, it does become a lot easier.

[00:42:08] Mark Divine: How do we face uncertainty in your model? 

[00:42:11] Dr. Julia DiGangi: So again, I’m going to go back to this idea is like the brain’s allergic to uncertainty and why? Because actually this is an important point I want to make. The human brain really can tolerate any emotional experience except one. There’s really only one emotional state or one affective state that the human brain cannot tolerate.

[00:42:33] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Okay. Thank you. And that state is confusion. 

[00:42:37] Mark Divine: Because it’s a meaning making machine. And so if it can’t make meaning, right, that’s like the worst thing ever, right? It’s death. It 

[00:42:44] Dr. Julia DiGangi: is. So if you kind of go like back to like apple, apple, apple, fill in the blank. Well. Is it, so just like the lungs are going to breathe, just like a cell phone is going to take phone calls, the brain is going to do what the machinery of the brain is designed to do.

[00:43:02] Dr. Julia DiGangi: And I’ve said already in our conversation, the machinery of the brain is designed to predict. So in the absence of information, the brain is going to predict. And what is it going to predict? It’s not going to predict Apple. It’s going to predict a coded old emotional pattern. 

[00:43:19] Mark Divine: So Apple, Apple, Apple. I’m not worthy.

[00:43:22] Mark Divine: Apple, apple, apple. Nobody listened to me. Nobody loves me. Right. Haven’t 

[00:43:26] Dr. Julia DiGangi: you ever had like a, like a totally ridiculous experience that you can totally laugh at yourself later? Like your spouse or your friend didn’t text you back in a timeframe you saw it was reasonable. And then you’re like, are they mad at me?

[00:43:37] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Or they’re being rude to me. It’s like, we come up with all these projections, right? Well, why is the brain doing that? Well, the brain is doing that obviously to keep you safe. The brain’s number one function is survival. So if I predict. Something that I need to defend against, something potentially dangerous.

[00:43:55] Dr. Julia DiGangi: I’m going to be more vigilant and I’m going to be more ready to tackle danger. Fine. Fine. There’s no problem there. The issue though is, and this is a, another big twist I think for your listeners. So I keep talking about trauma and PTSD. My area of expertise most academically is trauma. The brain and anxiety, right?

[00:44:12] Dr. Julia DiGangi: So PTSD is an anxiety disorder and obviously anxiety exists on a continuum. The best definition that I can give people for anxiety is a disturbed relationship with certainty. 

[00:44:29] Mark Divine: Say that again and say more, please. 

[00:44:31] Dr. Julia DiGangi: The best definition I can give you for anxiety is a disturbed relationship with certainty.

[00:44:38] Mark Divine: Interesting. Okay. 

[00:44:40] Dr. Julia DiGangi: What happens is. I feel uncertain, like we all do, because the future is just uncertain. And so I very naturally, unconsciously, try to create certainty. But what happens overwhelmingly to most of us, is we start to create external forms of certainty. In Energy Rising, I write about these, and I call them the Overs.

[00:45:00] Dr. Julia DiGangi: You’ll probably recognize some of them. I start to overwork. I start to overthink. I start to over deliver. I start to over give. I start to over accommodate. I start to over engineer, and on and on and on. So what the brain is actually doing is because this emotional energy of uncertainty is arousing my nervous system, it’s producing a behavioral response for me to try to overcompensate in my environment to create certainty.

[00:45:26] Dr. Julia DiGangi: The problem with this is working is amazing. I think a lot of us love our jobs. Overworking is always and only done because of fear. Giving is amazing. Overgiving we do because we’re afraid of whatever, being rejected or what, I mean, come up with a story, right? So if you think about, I’m going to use a really extreme example because if it’s true at the extreme, it’s true at lesser levels.

[00:45:52] Dr. Julia DiGangi: When you think about clinical diagnoses of anxiety, PTSD, OCD, generalized anxiety, social anxiety, what is happening in these conditions is actually people are trying to seek certainty at a pathological level. So let’s just take OCD as an example, cause you’ll really see it. So there’s a lot of variants of OCD.

[00:46:14] Dr. Julia DiGangi: I’ll just, there’s one variant called checking, right? So this is like, I’m checking to see if my stove is on. So I go, my body feels anxious. And in the energy of that anxiety, I behaviorally go and I check the stove for a minute, for a minute. I do get relief, but then the anxiety and I go, Oh my God, is the anxiety back?

[00:46:32] Dr. Julia DiGangi: And I go and I check again and then I feel a little bit and then I go back and I check and I check and I check to try to get certainty. But here is the total curse of anxiety. The more I try to produce external forms of certainty. By overworking or over checking or over giving or over functioning or overthinking the worst I feel.

[00:46:53] Mark Divine: Yeah. The more anxiety you create. It’s correct. 

[00:46:56] Dr. Julia DiGangi: If the strategy works, my nervous system should be feeling better. But the more I do it, the worse I feel. 

[00:47:02] Mark Divine: Interesting. Yeah. 

[00:47:04] Dr. Julia DiGangi: So then the question is, and this kind of gets back to your trauma question as well. Okay. I will. It sounds like. If I don’t like uncertainty, it sounds like the opposite of uncertainty should be certainty, but I’m actually saying the more you seek certainty, the more uncertain you will feel.

[00:47:20] Dr. Julia DiGangi: And this is not my opinion. This is an evidence based point. Okay. So then what is the opposite of uncertainty? 

[00:47:26] Mark Divine: Surrender. 

[00:47:28] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Surrender. And I think another word for that, I think it’s a beautiful word is trust. Trust. 

[00:47:33] Mark Divine: Trust that. Things will be okay. Trust that this too shall pass. Trust that everything’s happening and you’ll find your way through.

[00:47:41] Mark Divine: Trust in yourself, right? So surrendering to that trust. I love that. Yeah, 

[00:47:45] Dr. Julia DiGangi: exactly. Exactly. And I think too, it’s like so many of us, especially in a world that’s so information driven, there’s this idea that there should always be evidence. And so for a lot of us, the muscle. And I use that word very intentionally, the musculature of our nervous system’s ability to activate the energy of trust is very weak.

[00:48:08] Dr. Julia DiGangi: It’s atrophied. And so what happens is, and I would encourage people to look at like, give me clear examples of where I don’t trust myself. Well, I said I was going to wake up this morning and work out. And I didn’t, I said, I wanted to show up on this podcast, but I got anxious and I didn’t. So what you start to see is you’re giving yourself, it’s not so much that trust itself is dangerous.

[00:48:31] Dr. Julia DiGangi: It’s that I’m giving myself plenty of examples where number one, I don’t trust myself. I’m, and I, I’m producing evidence of lack of self-trust. Right? And then because of that, I’m not working out the muscle of trust. And again, I’m using this term muscle very intentionally. 

[00:48:48] Mark Divine: Right. As a practice, right? 

[00:48:49] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Yes. 

[00:48:51] Mark Divine: I love that.

[00:48:52] Mark Divine: Yeah, I agree with that. And in my last book, I call, I mentioned Staring on the Wolf. I talk about these commitments. And a commitment is a practice. It’s like the difference between a value and a virtue, right? Virtuous a habituated value. Then it becomes something you own and courage, trust and respect are the first three commitments for leaders and courage.

[00:49:10] Mark Divine: I put first because sometimes to get to trust, you have to step into courage and that’s the courage to look at your own, you know, fill in the blank, right? That which is holding you back, that trigger, that trauma, that ism, right? Whatever form it takes, it takes courage. To look at those things, especially for leaders who are putting themselves out there in whatever field, NGO, politics, business, you know, the old school way was, Hey, this leader is actually.

[00:49:41] Mark Divine: Somewhat more evolved than the rest of us, or it has to be perfect. Right. And so then you and I know that’s never the case, right? There is no such thing as perfection in leadership or in anything in life. So leaders need to look, have the courage to look at their own stuff at themselves. Take a hard look.

[00:50:01] Mark Divine: Well, 

[00:50:01] Dr. Julia DiGangi: I think too, like I think about trust is like, you know, as, as a scientist, I think people think that we’re very evidence based and we are, but one of the things I think people miss is that no scientist in the world is able to hold anything in trust. Like they, they can’t create evidence. They cannot create evidence until they first were able to trust.

[00:50:23] Dr. Julia DiGangi: You got to roll the dice. You got to try to get that NIH grant. You get rejected a million times. Like in order to even hold things in evidence. There have to be leaders who are willing to roll the dice on trust, and I think the mechanism of that is courage. If I’m standing at the edge of a cliff, I’ve got to trust myself to jump off, but to get me off that cliff, I need courage.

[00:50:45] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Right. 

[00:50:46] Mark Divine: That’s amazing. This is a great conversation. I wish we could, go for another hour, but we can’t. So, um. 

[00:50:52] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Likewise. Hey, before you go, I have one question for you. What did you find to be the most surprising thing about your career with the Navy SEALs? 

[00:51:00] Mark Divine: The amount of love that can be developed between individuals who face extraordinary risk together.

[00:51:09] Mark Divine: I was not expecting that. And I love my teammates more than anything in the world, but it’s a different type of love. You know, like Sanskrit has 67 ways to define love. It’s a huge gap in our English language and our whole understanding of the world. So even in the most extraordinarily difficult circumstances in combat, like love and hate are twins.

[00:51:30] Mark Divine: They stand side by side. What do you mean? 

[00:51:32] Mark Divine: Well, when we’re facing so much hate, you have to face it with an equal amount of love. 

[00:51:39] Mark Divine: And it’s not something you, we would hear of coming from many Navy SEALs, but that’s, that’s the only way to survive. And to thrive in those environments. 

[00:51:46] Dr. Julia DiGangi: You know, one of the things, I’ll actually send you this article.

[00:51:48] Dr. Julia DiGangi: I wrote a piece for Memorial Day that was published in, in the Chicago Trib. I wrote it about combat veterans and in PTSD, I did a lot of couples therapy. 

[00:51:57] Mark Divine: Yeah. Yeah. My wife is a couples therapist or she does both individual and couples. 

[00:52:00] Dr. Julia DiGangi: One of the things that I actually noticed was a theme. It wasn’t an every single couple, but the wife would say like, I know he’s committed to me, but I feel like he loves me.

[00:52:09] Dr. Julia DiGangi: the people he served with more. And a lot of times, the guy would just, he would be quiet. So he wouldn’t, you know, say, Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, that’s not true. And I think what I was hearing over and over again was the depth and the power of the connection. 

[00:52:23] Mark Divine: That’s right. Yeah. And, and I think that that’s kind of what I was talking about.

[00:52:27] Mark Divine: Since we don’t have language around What that love is, then you feel a little bit almost embarrassed or like it’s at the expense of, let’s say the love for your family or for your spouse. And it’s not, it’s, it’s actually just a different type of love. And the more different ways that you can find to love and the more that it spills over and it brings a richer.

[00:52:52] Mark Divine: relationship and deeper connection to all other forms of love or, or, you know, individuals or groups that you like. It takes courage, right? It takes courage to open yourself up to that level of intimacy, especially for guys. It’s very difficult for them to do. Right? And this is like veteran, when it comes to veteran healing, one of the things that we do that’s very effective is we put the men back together into a small team and that team has a facilitator coach, right?

[00:53:20] Mark Divine: And then we refer out to EMDR, refer out to psychedelic assisted therapy. I’m 

[00:53:24] Dr. Julia DiGangi: just going to ask you, do you guys use psychedelics? Well, we 

[00:53:26] Mark Divine: refer out, we don’t, we don’t do that as an organization, but we certainly support it because we know how powerful it is and you know, I’ve experienced it myself. But that, that.

[00:53:34] Mark Divine: That feeling of like, Oh my God, I’ve got my team back, right? And they’ve got my back, you know, and I can learn to trust again. It’s profound. It’s really helpful. 

[00:53:43] Dr. Julia DiGangi: I want to, I want to ask you one other question. So this is something I think I sit with a lot, because obviously I deal with incredibly profound trauma.

[00:53:52] Dr. Julia DiGangi: And when you say this idea of, you know, there’s always this. This trope right that like and i’m not mocking it that love is the most powerful Energy or the most powerful force on the planet, but then you sort of look around at the world and you don’t have to look See a lot of 

[00:54:06] Mark Divine: absence of it. We 

[00:54:07] Dr. Julia DiGangi: gotta work in our own homes the violence in our own homes the right so when you think about And I know this is an intimate question, so you don’t have to answer it, but what do you think is more powerful, love or fear?

[00:54:19] Mark Divine: Love is always more powerful and love can dispel fear, but fear can lock people into a limited consciousness that is, you know, it’s a pattern and there’s a lot of negative energy associated with fear. So the insertion of love into an environment. Right. You see this like with transformative healing, right?

[00:54:40] Mark Divine: So if there’s no love, you’re not going to find healing, but just one individual can bring in that love, that trust, that, you know, that acceptance and see that individual for what he really is. It’s transformative. So I think love is obviously always far more powerful than fear, but it exists on a continuum.

[00:55:00] Mark Divine: So fear is not the opposite of love. It’s just the absence of love. You know, we tend to think of everything dualistically as if right, left, up, down, but it’s just a, you know, when it comes to these energies, it’s the continuum of more love, less love. And then you name the less love as anxiety, fear, anger, shame, right?

[00:55:19] Mark Divine: And all the way up to courage. And then, you know, above courage, you’re going to have acceptance, forgiveness. Love. Universal love. Compassion. 

[00:55:28] Dr. Julia DiGangi: These kind of questions drive me crazy. So I’m going to ask you, you know, when we heal, there’s so many things that go into our healing. It’s never just like a single thing.

[00:55:36] Dr. Julia DiGangi: But what was, if you had to name a single thing, what has healed you the most? Talk therapy, psychedelics, EMDR. I mean, I mean anything. It doesn’t obviously have to be It’s interesting. 

[00:55:46] Mark Divine: That’s a great question because I think they, they heal different aspects of ourselves. I’ll tell you what, as a vet, ganglia block.

[00:55:54] Mark Divine: Treatment was extraordinarily useful because it reset my nervous system. And all of a sudden, you know, I was just much calmer and I, there wasn’t any one thing, all things I was calmer toward. So that was like a phenomenal thing. EMDR I’ve been doing EMDR for years is tapered down because released a lot of the energy.

[00:56:16] Mark Divine: And so we’re finding less. application for it. But that really, you know, without getting into the content, we’ll simply release the nervous systems energy. And so it’s very useful for anyone who’s experienced trauma, but it’s painful to remember the trauma or they can’t remember the trauma. EMDR still works.

[00:56:35] Mark Divine: So I love that for veterans. It’s very, very useful. And then psychedelics is really valuable for, um, recontextualizing one’s entire life to suddenly experience a non dual state, or, you know, the magic of that unity experience and the beauty for, for vets who are in the state of desperation or, or, you know, they’ve lost their will.

[00:56:57] Mark Divine: They’ve really lost their understanding. They’re kind of in a nihilistic state. It can be transformative. I’ve had vets say that one single experience. Completely transformed. 

[00:57:07] Dr. Julia DiGangi: I know, it’s what, well you know like, NDMA is about to be approved for PTSD and you know, you look at some of the like, single session.

[00:57:15] Dr. Julia DiGangi: One 

[00:57:15] Mark Divine: session. 

[00:57:15] Dr. Julia DiGangi: What psychedelic was the most powerful for you? And again, I know each has its own. 

[00:57:20] Mark Divine: I would say 5 LEO DMT. Because, first of all, like for me, I don’t, I’ve done some ayahuasca, I don’t love the, um, the discomfort associated with it. So I tend to control the, try to control the experience with intense breathing and, you know, whatnot.

[00:57:36] Mark Divine: And so I, I, I had difficulty surrendering. With 5 LAO DMT, the desert toad, you can’t not surrender, right? There’s, there is no you to surrender. You’re just gone. It just collapses the ego and you have this extraordinary, like 15 minute, you know, experience of non duality. And when you come back from that, like everything’s different, you just see the world very differently and see relationships.

[00:57:57] Mark Divine: So to me, that’s the most profound. I did some ibogaine with vets down in a group called the mission within down in Mexico. These, these individuals are on the leading edge of veteran healing with iboga. This is like tough cases, right? And iboga plant is considered the grandfather to, um, ayahuasca. And, um, it’s a very long, Somewhat painful experience for most, but it’s transformed with like 80 percent success rate and even healing addictions to include Heroin addiction, which is extraordinary Right.

[00:58:30] Mark Divine: So veterans are getting help a lot for that. That didn’t again, I think because of where I’m, where I’m at, Julia, I’ve been meditating since I was 21 years old. And so now psychedelics don’t affect my brain the way that, you know, the first couple experiences. Yeah. Then after that, I experienced them really just as a nice meditation.

[00:58:49] Mark Divine: But for those who, first time or even, you know, dealing with, unresolved trauma, man, they can be really powerful, but I think some preparation is advised, right? So I would, I would say ganglia block. If you’re, if you’re in a state of hyper arousal, ganglia block, definitely. Then a period of EMDR, you know, begin to release some of the nervous system energy, begin to recontextualize things and kind of do that preparatory work for the, um, for the psychedelics and you’ll have a much more pleasant experience because psychedelics can, you know, can really kick you in the jimmy.

[00:59:25] Mark Divine: And I know a lot of people who don’t, they have really rough experiences with it. 

[00:59:29] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Do you still carry a lot of the energy of your childhood trauma with you or do you feel a lot has been forgiven? 

[00:59:35] Mark Divine: Well, I hesitate to say it’s all been forgiven. I would like to think that. Forgiveness is a big part of my practice every day.

[00:59:42] Mark Divine: I tended to, you probably heard of the Hoffman process. I’ve spoken about it quite openly here and I know others have, but that was extremely helpful for me to understand my parents better and how and why they were, they wait, the way they were. And then the profound, forgiveness, practice, forgiveness, and then actually, you know, And during practice that came from, that was very helpful.

[01:00:07] Mark Divine: Ultimately, I think like the worst of our traumas, you know, happened in the first seven years of our lives, because that’s, that’s when you 

[01:00:14] Dr. Julia DiGangi: want to hear something crazy about the brain. The brain doesn’t even start, I mean, reliably making autobiographical memories until age seven. 

[01:00:22] Mark Divine: Oh, I was thinking three or four.

[01:00:24] Mark Divine: Seven. No. 

[01:00:25] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Autobiographical memories reliably start to come online really. And, you know, some people will be like, I remember the first day of kindergarten, but overwhelmingly, like the entities in the brain that are needed for that type of autobiographical memory come online around seven. So I think it’s, it’s like, There’s like, God is playing a trick on all of us, right?

[01:00:43] Dr. Julia DiGangi: So it’s like, if there’s a stronger argument for our stunning interdependence, the majority of my identity, my core memories are constructed at a time that I can’t even consciously remember. You can’t consciously 

[01:00:55] Mark Divine: say that you were Julia or Mark, right? 

[01:00:57] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Yeah. 

[01:00:57] Mark Divine: A hundred percent. And everything, this is so classic because, you know, it speaks to also, you know, spiritual, um, teachings is that, you know, this, This identity that we claim as ours is a fabrication.

[01:01:12] Mark Divine: It’s a, it’s a construct, right? It’s stories that we tell ourselves. And, and that, like you said, if you have a, a core programming element in that story, that is negative or coming from a lack You know, trauma, like, like you said, I am not worthy or why does nobody listens to me? Or I’m not, you know, insert blank, then that colors the entire identity going forward until it’s addressed.

[01:01:36] Dr. Julia DiGangi: I actually, I know we’re just like kind of just jam jamming right now, but the third code and energy rising is all about the energy of humiliation. It’s the only code I picked one emotion to talk about. I actually think, you know, this is, so one of the things that came through in my work with combat veterans is.

[01:01:54] Dr. Julia DiGangi: In case it isn’t self evident, I’m a civilian. And so when I started to have these guys come to me for PTSD, I was like, Yeah, I’m pretty sure I kind of know what the worst thing is that you were going to die. And what I was hearing across guys, across combats, across continents, was they were like, yeah, I didn’t necessarily want to die.

[01:02:12] Dr. Julia DiGangi: But the worst thing was being the guy on the mission who didn’t have a sh together was being the guy on the mission that other people couldn’t depend on was being the guy on the mission who now has this moral injury that no matter what I do, like, so what I was hearing over and over and over in, in truly this life or death context was a fate worse than death was this energy of humiliation.

[01:02:35] Mark Divine: That’s fascinating. Yeah. The shame associated with not living up to your, or not being there for your teammate, right. Or not being able to perform or even, you know, Not being the one who died. 

[01:02:49] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Exactly. 

[01:02:49] Mark Divine: Fascinating. 

[01:03:46] Dr. Julia DiGangi: It is. Yep. It just came out.

[01:03:48] Dr. Julia DiGangi: So, I encourage people if they’re interested in the brain and this idea of emotional power and how to really transform our pain into power, check it out. 

[01:03:56] Mark Divine: No doubt. And if someone wants to reach out to you, they’re interested in Yeah. The work you do, what’s a good place to find you? 

[01:04:02] Dr. Julia DiGangi: You can find me like most people these days.

[01:04:05] Dr. Julia DiGangi: I’m on all the social media handles. So I’m at Dr. Julia DiGangi on LinkedIn, Dr. Julia DiGangi on Instagram. And then I’m on Facebook. I’m just Julia Degangy and I also have a newsletter, substack Dr. Julia DiGangi. 

[01:04:18] Mark Divine: Well, thank you so much, Julia, I really appreciate the work you’re doing. And I think your book is going to help a lot of people and I super enjoyed this conversation.

[01:04:27] Mark Divine: So, thank you very much. Yeah. 

[01:04:29] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Thanks for talking to Me. You should start a podcast. You should start a podcast journal. The psychologist in me, you know. I 

[01:04:34] Mark Divine: know, right? You need the Energy Rising podcast. You would be an excellent, excellent, interviewer host. 

[01:04:41] Dr. Julia DiGangi: Oh, well thank you. You were a great interviewer.

[01:04:44] Mark Divine: Time, time, time. Gotta be judicious with it. Right? All right. So once again, Julia, thank you so much. Really appreciate it. 



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