Follow along with the transcript below for episode: Discover Your Authentic Power With Ashley Bernardi
[00:00:02] PF: Welcome to episode 349 of Live Happy Now. Many of us are feeling fatigued and a little bit powerless by the trauma of the past couple of years. But today’s guest is going to tell us how each of us can use this time to find our authentic power.
I’m your host, Paula Fels, and this week I’m talking with Ashley Bernardi, author of Authentic Power: Give Yourself Permission to Heal. She’s here to talk about how our most challenging times can hold the secret to our authentic power if we’ll just give ourselves permission to feel it and heal from it. She’ll explain what she learned during her own healing journey and tell us how we can use those same techniques to find greater happiness.
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And now, let’s hear from today’s guest, Ashley Bernardi.
[00:01:41] PF: Ashley, welcome to Live Happy Now.
[00:01:43] AB: Thank you so much for having me, Paula. I’m so excited to be here.
[00:01:47] PF: I’m excited to talk with you. People don’t know, we’ve had a lot of email conversations over time because of what you do as a publicist. And I’m really excited to be able to talk to you about this beautiful book that you’ve written. And it’s so important, because it really delves into what happens when we take time to look at our own trauma. And how did you decide to write this book? And why now?
[00:02:11] AB: Oh my gosh! That’s a loaded question. I love it. So I felt called to write it in the early days of the pandemic, so March, April 2020. And what happened during those early days, as anybody who’s listening can relate, is we were faced, or at least for me, with so much fear, anxiety, depression, grief, having lost friends early on in the pandemic, old colleagues, confusion, despair, all of these messy and uncomfortable feelings that I believe that society tells us that, “Push those feelings down.” “Be happy.” “You don’t need to feel those feelings.” And like sometimes my husband has said, “Just cheer up [inaudible 00:02:56].” And I talk about this in my book. It’s like my biggest pet peeve.
So what I found was – And during those early days of the pandemic, those feelings and emotions were bubbling up. And instead of pushing them back down, numbing myself out, ignoring those feelings, which is what I have done in the past, I gave myself permission to feel this time around. And what happened was I started journaling about it. I started interviewing many healing experts about it. They’re included in my book. And I felt called to share my personal journey of healing from trauma, which I’m sure we’ll get into, and how I dealt with and process that trauma now versus what I did before. And what I learned is that there is so much power and transformation by giving yourself permission to feel and what authentic power is. And giving yourself permission to feel is truly the antidote to help you access your authentic power, which to me is the wisdom that we all have within us. It just takes us getting quiet and still and turning off that noise and then in turn trusting that wisdom, trusting that intuition and those gut feelings that come up for us and doing something about it.
[00:04:05] PF: And one of the tough things is taking that time to be quiet, because it is so uncomfortable. It’s not like when we get still with those messy feelings like, “Oh, this feels good.” And we have so many available distractions now. So how did you keep yourself on the path of going deeper?
[00:04:22] AB: So that is such an important question. And I’m going to say, to answer that question, I have to start with what I did first, because I know how uncomfortable it is to feel these feelings. Nobody wants to. And to tell this, I’m going to take you back to my first trauma. And that was when I was 11 years old, and my father died of a sudden death heart attack right in front of me and my sister and my mom. And my mom and sister tried to give him CPR. I ran out to call 911 to get help from the neighbors. And what we learned was that there was nothing that we could do to have saved him. His heart was 90% blocked. And that trauma was so severe I did not want to give myself permission to feel the horrible feelings that I felt. The shame that I felt of I could have done more to save my father’s life, the grief that I felt that my number one person was no longer in my life.
And so growing up, even though despite trying to get – My mom, of course, tried to get me help with grief counselors. I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t tell my friends that my dad had died. I will never forget my first boyfriend, he didn’t even know. I didn’t tell him my dad died. He just found out. There’s a great find through someone else like just to tell you how much I did not want to address it. And I carried on like that for a long time. And of course, as some listeners may know, when you bury these feelings, and your trauma, and your pain, it can come out in other ways. It has to come out somehow, right? So for me, it came out in lack of boundaries, and people-pleasing, and destructive relationships, a destructive relationship with alcohol, and work addiction. Like anything that I could do to numb myself out from feeling my own pain. I was obsessed with feeling everybody else’s pain.
I was a producer for CBS News, and one of my jobs was as a field producer traveling the country covering breaking news stories. And they were horrific breaking news stories. I covered the Virginia Tech Massacre. I covered missing parents, missing children. And like the irony of that is that I was obsessed with covering somebody else’s trauma because I did not want to address my own.
Flash forward to about you know a couple years later in my early 30s, I was no longer a producer. I was now starting this growing PR business. And another trauma hit me over the head that was an undiagnosed mystery illness coupled with postpartum depression at the same time. That mystery illness ended up being diagnosed as Lyme disease. So I had Lyme disease and postpartum depression at the same time. There was no more room for me to hold any more trauma in. So it was like the universe almost gifted me with an opportunity to purge everything.
And it was when I got quiet and still, because I truly could not move my body, did I start to feel all these feelings from my childhood and past start bubbling up. The trauma of my father’s death. Just various other uncomfortable moments. And I let myself feel them. I let myself grieve from my father. I let myself grieve for my health, for my mental health. I mean, I had postpartum depression. I was put in a part-time hospitalization program, which is you go into a hospital eight hours a day and you come out. And I did that for several weeks just to get the mental health support that I needed.
And I learned the transformational healing that occurs when you get quiet, and you get still, and you give yourself permission to feel. And I want to say this, back to your first question, is that I know how hard it is to get still. I never sat still. It wasn’t until my body forced me to get still and I had nowhere to go. And I learned through – Like when I first started doing small acts of, let’s say, meditation, I could only get through 10 seconds of meditation. And that of course is a great starting point. I gave myself some grace for that. And now here I am six years later and I could meditate for hours if I wanted to, but I’ve got work to do. But I just learned that, first of all, it’s those baby steps to get quiet and still even if it’s five breaths. Like for anyone listening out there today, get still for five breaths and see how you feel after. Like science proves that even in 90 seconds, we can change the way our feelings are moved through us, and even our our mindset by taking 90 seconds to just let yourself breathe.
[00:08:45] PF: So how hard was it to take others on this journey and tell them about it? Because this is your healing journey, but it’s really a universal theme because it tells others – Kind of shows others how to walk down a path of healing. Was it difficult to be that open and honest?
[00:09:02] AB: I love this question so much. And yes, let me tell you this. I don’t think I would have healed, and I don’t think I would continue to heal if I didn’t open up and get vulnerable. Because I first thought that I could just go through my feelings and my physical, and mental, and spiritual woes on my own. And sure, absolutely, there’s a lot of inner work that I needed to be doing by processing my feelings. But I found that when I started opening up, and I first started, of course, with my husband. Just getting real and honest with him with what was happening. And then with a couple very close girlfriends, I told them, and I was like, “This is what’s happening with me. Basically, I feel like I’m dying every day, and I really miss my dad.” And just really being open and honest. I was met with so much love and compassion. And that motivated me to continue to heal.
And so then I slowly found that the more I talked about what I was going through, I connected with other people who had similar experiences. But I also was met with so much love and compassion, and community support, and connection that gave me this, again, like my authentic power and motivation to heal. The more I got honest and vulnerable first with myself, then connected with others, that’s where transformation happened.
[00:10:26] PF: Now, when you were going through this, at what point did you realize the whole concept of authentic power and how this all played together? Because obviously, you had to dig through all your dirt first and then make something out of it.
[00:10:39] AB: Yeah, I love that question. It took years. And I’ll say this. It probably wasn’t until the pandemic when I had all these uncomfortable feelings bubble up again. And instead of pushing them back down, it was like, “Oh my gosh! I know what to do now. I’ve taught myself how to tap into my authentic power.” And it was that kind of aha moment of, “I already know – I have all the answers. I know what to do. I know what I need to support myself.”
I’ll say it wasn’t until March of 2020 did I have this aha moment. I know how to tap into my authentic power because I had spent years unknowingly teaching myself how to do it. And that’s when I felt called to write a book about it.
[00:11:20] PF: One thing that you introduced that I really want to dive into is the FEEL framework.
[00:11:26] AB: Yes.
[00:11:27] PF: So how about you talk about what that is? Explain what it is and how it works?
[00:11:31] AB: Okay. So, yes. The FEEL framework is something that I came up with and I taught myself. And it’s how I learned how to access my feelings and process my feelings and move through my feelings in a safe, gentle and loving way. Because as I mentioned earlier, and this is probably the case for many people, is that we don’t give ourselves permission to feel. So what I did was this is again what happened in the early days of the pandemic when I was like, “Ah! I know what to do now.” So first I’m going to focus on the emotion that I’m feeling. So what is that emotion or that feeling that’s bubbling up for you? And I always like to say that maybe you can’t name or identify that feeling also. Maybe it’s just like this off feeling, or something’s just not right. You don’t know if it’s sadness, or despair, or what. That’s fine. Just focus on what it is.
Then I want you to enter that feeling. And usually this is the part where people don’t do, because it’s so hard. You’re going to give yourself permission to enter within that feeling. That means get curious. Where is it showing up in your body? Because oftentimes, if you’re feeling anger or if you’re feeling an uncomfortable feeling, your body is likely feeling it too. Where is it showing up? Maybe you’re clenching your shoulders. Maybe your stomach is upset. Mine certainly gets upset when I’m feeling anxiety. Maybe you have a headache. I mean, just notice. But enter. Allow yourself to enter within it.
The next part is experience that emotion however it feels safe and right for you. So perhaps it looks like crying. Sometimes sadness can look like laughing. Perhaps it’s journaling all your feelings and then burning that piece of paper, which I’ve had people do. It’s whatever feels safe for you.
In my book, I interviewed Dr. Jamie Hope, who is an ER physician, and she talks about ways that we can stress hard and stress soft. Because as human beings, we’re very primal. So when a child has a meltdown, you see this child kicking and screaming. But as adults, we don’t do that because we’ve been socially conditioned to hold our feelings in. Whereas this child who’s kicking and screaming is actually just getting their emotions out in a primal way. They’re processing their emotions in real time. So that’s what I’m hoping that people can learn to do.
Whatever you can do to experience that emotion and process it in a safe way, that is what’s recommended through the experience part of the FEEL framework. And this can take as long or as short as you want. So as an example, for me, I like to go through the FEEL framework on my yoga mat. And there have been so many times where I allow myself to feel an uncomfortable feeling. It comes up and then I just sit sobbing in child’s pose and I let it go. And then the last part of the feel framework is listen, learn and love that emotion back.
So first of all, by listening to that emotion, what is it here to teach us? Get curious as to what might be coming up. Why is it here? So in the same way that we experience joy, and happiness, and inspiration, I believe we’re meant to process these uncomfortable and messy feelings as well. People see them as negative. But perhaps we can learn from them and see them in a different light. And then also, the final part of that L is love that emotion back. It’s there to teach you something. It’s there to support you. These feelings are meant to be processed and felt. So focus, enter, experience, listen, learn and love it back and that’s the FEEL framework. And I recommend for anyone who’s listening to try this out and see how you feel afterwards. And oftentimes you might just say, “Okay, that was cool.” But what I’ve noticed is when I go through the FEEL framework, I feel so much better sometimes days and weeks later, because I’ve given myself permission to express my emotions, to process my emotions instead of bearing them in. And that’s where like the consistent healing keeps coming up too.
[00:15:19] PF: Right now, we, as a planet, and you kind of alluded to this earlier, we have gone through and we’re still experiencing a form of trauma. And some of us have lost loved ones. Some of us have lost lifestyles and careers. Some of us have just lost our hope. And so everyone is going through some sort of sense of grief and loss. And it’s our nature to kind of downplay it if we haven’t had that big loss or what we perceive as someone has it worse. So as we look at what we’ve gone through with COVID both individually and as humankind, how do we start using your principles to work through that? And first of all, to acknowledge that we all have something that we’re dealing with on some level?
[00:16:02] AB: Yeah, I love this question. And I think one of the ways I want to answer first, is because I thought a lot about this during the pandemic, is trauma comparisons. And I used to do this as a kid, or even when I was a producer at CBS. Their trauma is so much worse than mine.
[00:16:19] PF: We would call that top that woe.
[00:16:22] AB: Yes, tap that woe. But, I mean, what if we imagine that like our woes are all equal? I’s all collective, right? We’re all energetic beings experiencing different things. But I’ve learned that it’s not healthy to compare someone’s trauma versus somebody else’s. What you’re experiencing is validated. And I want you to validate that for yourself and give yourself grace. We are all going through a collective trauma. Yes, it may look different for people. Some people may have lost a job. Some people may have lost a loved one. That’s still loss. That’s still grief. And that’s meant to be processed.
And so something that I can offer to get started, if you’re not sure you know where can I first start accessing my authentic power and giving myself permission to feel, is walk yourself through the FEEL framework with so much love and compassion. Knowing that the first time that you do it is going to be very uncomfortable. And maybe it’s only going to take a minute. But see how you feel after that minute. Give yourself baby steps. And I think that’s the other thing that I want to say is that, as you know Paula. I’m an entrepreneur. I’m a type a personality. I like to get things done. I like to get things done quickly. But what I’ve learned in my healing journey is that it’s completely opposite. There’s no giant leaps to feeling better or spiritual healing. It’s all about those baby, baby steps. And it goes back to the first day that I tried to meditate. Could only do it for 10 seconds. And I absolutely hated it. But I can say, if you’re willing to take those baby steps and then be consistent with them, that is where the change makes.
And I actually learned through my science and well-being course at Yale that if you can stick to being consistent with something for four weeks, you’ll make it a habit. So one of the things that I had committed to during my time in the course was I’m going to make sure that I’m meditating every day for four weeks. And guess what? Like I barely missed a beat since I started that habit. It just becomes like brushing your teeth.
So making small habitual changes, maybe it’s a 10 second meditation, then it’s bumped up to 20 seconds, then it’s bumped up to 30 seconds. Maybe it’s journaling once a week, then it’s bumped up to two days a week. Or setting a timer to journal one minute, then a minute 30. It’s all about those baby steps of progression. And then also, listening to your authentic power, which is that wisdom within you of what’s going to work for me to heal. Like ask yourself that. Get a journal out today and say, “What does my heart need to heal? How is my heart feeling today?” Because I find when we ask ourselves these powerful questions and allow ourselves to free write and journal, you’ll find that you already have the answers within you. You know what you need to do. Sometimes we just have to hear ourselves talk.
[00:19:10] PF: Right. We need someone to tell us what to do, and that person to tell us is ourselves.
[00:19:15] AB: That’s exactly it. That’s exactly it. And we are constantly, as a society, looking for and being marketed everywhere of this magic thing, this magic elixir, this person, this program, this course, this, this, this. But really, it’s just you. It’s you. You are the expert of your own life. You already hold the wisdom within. You know what you need to do to heal. Yes, you shall get doctors, and loved ones, and loving gentle care and support, and safe support surrounded, because connection is a part of healing. But that wisdom that you have is already within you.
[00:19:48] PF: Terrific. Yeah, we just have to discover it and go a little deeper. And that’s one thing I like about your book so much, is that you give different options. Like you really do give us – As you said, it’s not one size fits all. And try on these different things. It’s like going to a buffet. It’s like you don’t want everything on there. You’re just like, “Hey, maybe I’m going to check this out and see how it works. And if I don’t like it, I’ll try something else.”
[00:20:07] AB: Yeah. And if you don’t like it, that’s cool. Be nice to yourself. Say, “Well, I tried it. I’m gonna move on. Move on.” Be kind to yourself as you’re on this journey and experimenting with healing modalities.
[00:20:18] PF: Absolutely. Now, obviously, this is a very heartfelt book. So what is it that you wish for the people who read it?
[00:20:25] AB: Thank you so much. And I’ve gotten so much, I guess, praise from just people that are close to me, or friends of friends, or strangers about how they have appreciated my vulnerability and speaking my truth. And my hope is that by me speaking my truth, which was really really hard to do. I mean, I had to write about the night my dad died. And that was very healing for me. But also to speak that truth hoping that other people will know that it’s okay to get vulnerable. That healing is possible. We can always have hope within us. And that you are the expert of your own life. That healing is always possible.
And if you’re going through a tough moment right now or a tough year right now, like many many of us are, one of the affirmations that I have in my book, and this is an affirmation I gave myself when I was going through Lyme disease and postpartum depression, is this is temporary. This moment is temporary. I didn’t even believe it when I told myself that at the time, but I would affirm it every single day. And guess what? It turned out to be true. It turned out to be true. And that is such a testament to healing. And that these messy and uncomfortable moments and allowing ourselves to feel them, those moments are temporary in the same way that joy and sadness is temporary. So I guess that’s a lot of messages. The bottom line is my hope is that people will find inspiration to explore healing modalities, access their own authentic power, and provide some hope as they go through their healing journey.
[00:21:53] PF: Excellent. Well, Ashley, you give us a great – You make a great tour guide through this healing journey. So thank you for coming on the show and talking about it. And we’re going to tell people how they can find your book, how they can learn more about you. And again, I just thank you for sitting down and talking with me about it.
[00:22:09] AB: Oh, thank you so much for the opportunity, Paula. This has been such an incredible, and thoughtful, and insightful interview.
[00:22:20] PF: That was Ashley Bernardi, talking about discovering our authentic power. If you’d like to learn more about Ashley and her book, Authentic Power: Give Yourself Permission to Feel, or follow her on social media, visit our website at livehappy.com and click on the podcast link.
That is all we have time for today. We’ll meet you back here again next week for an all-new episode. And until then, this is Paula Felps, reminding you to make every day a happy one.