Full show notes: https://www.adopteeson.com/listen/hspact
Episode Transcription by Fayelle Ewuakye. Find her on Twitter at @FayelleEwuakye
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Haley - You are listening to Adoptees On, the podcast where adoptees discuss the adoption experience. I’m your host Haley Radke. And this is a special episode in our Healing Series, where I interview therapists who are also adoptees themselves, so they know from personal experience, what it feels like to be an adoptee. Last week, Dr. Julie Lopez was on the podcast, teaching us all about implicit memory and today we are going to add on to that, while Dr. Julie teaches us about the PACT method. And she’s gonna tell us what that means. Let’s listen in.
Haley - I am so pleased to welcome back to Adoptees On, Dr. Julie Lopez. Welcome!
Julie - Thank you so much for having me.
Haley - I'm really excited to talk to you again, because last time you taught us about implicit memory and you really dived deep into your book as to why this is so important for us to access. And one of the ways we can do that, I really want you to teach us. And so you call it, Finding Your Unknown PACTS, a Four Part Methodology in your book.
Julie - Yes.
Haley - So can you explain a little bit, just catch us up to speed on what implicit memory is and why it’s hard to access. And then why this tool works and we’ll kinda go into what it is.
Julie - Okay. So implicit memory is part of your unconscious. So by definition, it is inaccessible to you. But we have these codes that are written into our system that tell us basically how to operate in the world. And they can be codes that say urban areas are safe or they could be codes that say no, areas in the country are safe. And it’s not told to us in words, it’s just a sensation that we get through experiences or what we’re exposed to. That’s a very basic explanation because it wasn’t learned academically, just rather through life, it can then impact how we behave. So someone who, I’m just gonna go with that analogy right now, grew up in the country might feel very unsafe in the city. Thinking, oh my gosh, I’m gonna get robbed, or there’s gonna be gunshots, or it’s really something like that. And they might be thinking some of that but their body also might be responding in the way that they walk, in the way that they feel. The person in the city might feel much more comfortable with people around and they’re out in the country and they feel scared. And they're worried that an ax murderer is gonna come out of the dark stillness that they feel and that is unfamiliar. That’s a very light metaphor for what I’m talking about here with implicit memory. Because some has to do with intimacy, some has to do with survival, but the important part is that it impacts what happens biologically in our body. Because if we feel afraid, if we feel vulnerable, if we feel angry, we are going to experience changes in our heart rate, in our nervous system, in our level of adrenaline or cortisol. We are going to experience significant changes in our felt sense of an experience. And those show themselves like, struggles with anxiety or feelings of depression, behavioral changes. And so implicit memory becomes this very important place where we can start to do work with the way that neuropsychology and these body based practices are evolving to really substantively change these hidden codes that are in our brain.
Haley - And so tell us what PACT is and how that works.
Julie - Okay, right. So this is one of the chapters in my book and this is actually a workshop. This comes from a workshop that I do with bigger groups. But it can definitely be done in a pair. You need another person to do it when you come to the fourth step. But I’ll lead you through it chronologically. So PACT, P-A-C-T, stands for this 4 part methodology that can be used to find what is stored in your implicit memory. So this is the first step. Any empowerment movement, and my book by the way is called Live Empowered, begins with making things invisible, visible. We’re impacted by the subtleties of sexism or racism. In order to become empowered, you have to start to see those as the first step to then being able to change them. So you’re in a much more empowered place if you understand the way implicit memory works and you’ve actually identified what might be stored there with the help of another person. And that person, I wanna just throw out something right here. A lot of times people think, oh gosh, she’s a therapist, so she probably means the other person is a therapist. That other person does not have to be a therapist. So let me lead you through it. So step one is the P in PACT, stands for pain point. So you start out, usually when I’m doing this in a workshop form is I have a piece of paper for them, usually a piece of card stock and I ask them on the front of the card stock to write something that is frustrating to them in their life. You can do this with many somethings, but for the purpose of the workshop, I say, just pick one. And so usually it’s a mysterious thing, where through all logical knowledge, the person should be able to implement something, do something, participate in something, but yet they can’t. They don’t follow through, they don’t do what they know is within their power, and so it makes no sense. It becomes a pain point. Like, you know, I really want to get this raise at work. And my supervisor has said, I need to engage more in meetings, I need to show up more for the conferences, and I need to present all the knowledge that I have. Because I don’t do that, I shrink away from that. I don’t know why I do it. I have taken classes, I’ve got a personal development coach, and I have invested in Toastmasters and other things that are gonna make me feel more comfortable speaking up. But yet, I still don’t do it. I've got the knowledge, I’ve got the power, I’ve got the ability, but when it comes right down to it, there’s an invisible thing that’s getting in my way. I’m just giving an example. Because the pain point is meant to be something that to you seems mysterious.
Haley - Can you tell us, before you keep going, can you tell us the pinprick story?
Julie - Yes, okay. So this is actually a story of the earliest researchers and scientists who were looking at memory and the brain. And this is a story of Edouard Claparede who was a French neurologist, back over 100 years ago. Who was working at a hospital and was specifically studying patients who had serious brain injuries. And he was working with a woman who had significant amnesia. And every day he would go in to visit her. And he would say hello, extend his hand in greeting, and she would greet him as if it was the first time she’d ever met him. He would ask her questions and she had zero memory of him from day to day. She could not have any memory that lasted beyond the moment that they were in. So one day, in the spirit of experimentation and trying to understand these different biological parts of the brain, he put a pin in his hand, with the pointed part sticking out. And when she stood up from her chair to greet him, he put his hand out and pricked her with the pin. Well, she recoiled in pain and wouldn’t talk to him anymore that day. So the next day he went in to see her again she wouldn’t shake his hand. He asked her if she remembered him, she said no. She confirmed that to her, he was a stranger. And he asked why she wouldn’t shake his hand. And she had no idea. She couldn’t answer that question because she had significant amnesia. But a part of her body could remember the sensation of pain. And would not allow her to shake his hand. And these were the early tests and experiments that started to prove that implicit memory existed. And so this is a study that actually illustrates the existence of implicit memory. Not in her explicit brain, but her body stored the memory that this was unsafe for her.
Haley - And I love that story because it’s just like, so obvious, right? It’s so obvious that there’s something else working behind the scenes, and so the first point, the pain example, something that is frustrating you and you just like, can’t get past it. I think we can all sort of think of those things for ourselves. So that step feels like, like that feels doable. Okay, what’s the next one?
Julie - And I’ll tell you something that’s interesting and why there has to be another trusted person involved. If you think about a concept of implicit memory and you’re starting to be like oh, I wonder if this is related to me or I wonder if this is, we’re all really good at identifying what’s in our friend’s implicit memory. It’s much harder to identify what’s in our own, right? Because it’s stored in our unconscious. So being a detective for someone else and saying hey, I bet you have relationship issues, or hey, it seems like you’re afraid of visibility. And they’re like, I’m not afraid of visibility, I think visibility’s fine. Well then why aren’t you speaking up in the meeting? I don’t know, that’s weird. I’m very puzzled by it. And that’s the kind of quality it would have it we’re identifying a pain point. It’s like, makes no logical sense to you. Yeah, so that’s step one. So next step 2 in the PACT methodology, has to do with associations. So I ask people just to free associate on the backside of that same paper. Any type of feelings, experiences, associations with that pain point. And it can be concrete, I make it very permissive and open. So it could be if we’re following along with the example of the person who has trouble with visibility in meetings or in speaking or engaging professionally, then maybe he might be writing down, it’s so frustrating, I get so angry. You know, I’ll psych myself up before a meeting but then it feels like my throat closes up. So that’s a really good one, so it’s like, there’s a physical sensation. I get really mad at myself, I feel really confused. When I try to visualize, actually speaking in front of people, I get these really weird images of people laughing at me or making fun of me and I know it’s in my head, but I do associate it with sharing my knowledge or being really out there with stuff. So it’s just a free association and I encourage them to think about anything and to let their mind wander. And especially to write down things that seem illogical or unrelated. So I give them some time to do that. It really is, so this association step is to try to start stretching that implicit memory muscle. Often times the things stored in implicit memory don’t make sense to the person, to us, because it’s in our own conscious.
Haley - So what do you do with all that big list of all the things that they think of?
Julie - So when I’m doing, so I tailor this workshop depending on how much time we have. If I have a lot of time, I’ll actually be walking around to try to help people because depending on how open or how much personal work they’ve done, some people may just start writing, writing, writing and other people may say, I don’t know, it sucks. Right? That’s the end of their association with that experience. And so I’ll walk around and try to help them think outside the box. Because what data in the implicit memory looks like, it kind of, it’s in your peripheral vision, it’s stuff that you have to really quiet down or be really open to seeing. So it’s like a little flash over in the far left side of your vision and so being able to see that is a part of the challenge of this particular step. And so I let people be where they are, but most of the time I’m trying to coax them into being more open to the illogical things, to not having it be so controlled and structured. That if there’s something illogical that seems related, like I just said oh someone might say I see people laughing at me. And they might not put that down right away, because it doesn’t seem like it’s logical. But yet it’s a part of their association with that experience. So for right now, it’s just something for them to reflect on and again, start to be in that more open space because it takes that kind of openness to even be receptive to what comes next.
Haley - Okay, step three, categorization. What’s that?
Julie - Okay, so there we start to give structure, right? The first step was just to identify what they’re invested in and struggling with, the second one is ideally as open as possible to start to stretch this peripheral vision for people. And then step 3, I actually give them a table a chart, which is also in the book in appendix B. But it gives them different areas so they can start to take their associations and put them in these categories that are more consistent with the way things are coated in implicit memory. So it’s feeling, it’s sight, it’s sound, it’s sensation, it’s again, like these illogical associations. And to be honest, most people like that step a lot. They’re like wow, I felt kinda stuck in the one before. Depends again on how much personal work they’ve done and then here’s like a directive that has little boxes that they can put things in. And sometimes what happens is, there’s stuff from the associations that don’t, that none of them, that one of the boxes doesn’t have any material and they’re like, oh, I didn’t think about color, I didn’t think about the visuals, but what I actually, what I see is myself falling into a hole or something like that, right? Something that they may have been aware of but didn’t feel invited to write until they see the categories. And so it helps to lay it out, it’s like, it’s like being a detective, right? You know there’s a murder mystery you have to solve. And at first you just go out and start gathering all this information. And it’s like gather, gather, gather, and you don’t know which parts are gonna help and which parts aren’t and maybe some of the things that seem unimportant end up being like a critical part of the investigation. And then you lay it out and you see it on these crime shows where they’re starting to then gather things and regroup them to look at it from a different lens and that’s what step 3 is about when we’re putting things into categories.
Haley - So you got your chart and you got all your boxes filled out and you’re starting to see, maybe see a pattern? What’s next, what’s step 4?
Julie - Well then you bring in your assistant. So step 4 is about trust. So you’re bringing in someone that you trust. Because someone that you trust that’s outside of your human system of all this complexity, is actually the detective. You’ve really been the assistant detective. Because with their outside perspective, they’re going to be better able to see what’s in your implicit memory than you are yourself. And so what I tell people in the workshops, is that I want the person who’s playing that detective, to be in the posture of curiosity. And to look at that chart and to hear the pain point and to then share the conclusions that they might have about the common thread that’s underneath all the of the data that they’re seeing. And I ask the person who’s sharing their chart, to put themselves into the posture of a humble student. And this is to have maximum receptivity to what they’re gonna hear. Because the same way the pain point is so confusing and illogical, like the story of the woman with amnesia, where she said, I don’t know why. Like that doesn’t even make sense, but I’m not gonna shake your hand, I’m not going to, I don’t want to. There’s something inside of me that’s saying no, right? And so I ask people to stretch themselves as best they can to be open and to be writing down the information that they get from their detective friend, from their curious, trusted, investigator. So that they can start, because that’s what it’s gonna feel like when you start to get the data from your implicit memory. Going back to that story, with Dr. Claparede, that amnesia patient, doing this type of exercise, you know the trusted person might be saying, you know, when I look at all of your associations, it seems like somewhere in your body is associating pain with this handshake. And she’d say, I don’t know that, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, I’ve never met the guy before, it’s really weird, right? But if she can write it down in this humble way, it might bear a lot of fruit in terms of thinking of what needs to be recoded. If it has now extended to all doctors, that she won't greet and won't talk to. And it's getting in the way of her treatment now, because this is the path she goes down. And here she is, in this vessel with these codes, and it’s become a little bit more explicit. So she can say, huh, I do have this constant thing. My friend in this workshop said maybe you’re associating pain with this handshake, is there a way around it? How do you wanna work with it? And that whole process starts to move us into more of an empowered arena.
Haley - You know, last time you were on this show and you taught us about implicit memory ,which you oughta go back and listen to that episode if you haven’t heard it yet, you were talking about different ways we can go in and access and recode. And I love that you have on this chart sight, sound, taste, and all of those senses. Like, is that a way that you can use then, say you’re gonna go in and say you’re gonna do EMDR, you can bring this into your therapist and say, ok. My friend and I found this weird pattern I’m having and here are some of the things.
Julie - Totally.
Haley - And it’s like, a road map.
Julie - Yes, totally. Exactly. And to be honest, because a lot of these more advanced approaches to changing what’s coded in implicit memory are actually nonverbal, having the context of what the code might be and why that’s related to goals, it just jumpstarts the whole process. And can really help to shorten the length of time in treatment.
Haley - Well I’ve done EMDR with my psychologist before and some of the questions that she asked me where like, do you smell anything? Or do you, you know when you’re talking about a specific memory and event and so this would already have those things. So I love that, it’s a short cut, it’s perfect. Hey, wonderful. Is there anything else that you wanna tell us about the PACT method or what we could do with it, that you feel is really important for us to know?
Julie - Yeah, so I think again it just speaks to being empowered. If we’re really in that position of being a humble student, then it gives texture and dimension to our relationships with our self and with other people. And yes, there are all these different approaches that are outlined in my book as well around how and what choices you can make to change the codes in your implicit memory. But I think it’s very powerful just to have the knowledge of what might be there. It’s taking something invisible and making it more visible. And that’s a key component to change so even that fact, I would say, can be very profound in someone’s life in terms of then reconditioning that reality. So yes, you can go in with one of these methods and shortcut the process. But I think just having the knowledge can make you a better friend, a better partner, a better professional, a better student of this journey around self-awareness. So I think there’s a power in that, in and of itself, right? Continuously saying, that’s not my problem or I didn't do that, or I don’t even know why, is a difficult position to be in when the actual struggle may be originating from within ourselves. And I think that empowered position puts us in a much better place to make the kind of changes that we want or to live the life that we wanna live.
Haley - Absolutely. I love that. So your book is called Live Empowered!: Rewire your Brain’s Implicit Memory to Thrive in Business, Love and Life. Where can we find it and where can we connect with you online?
Julie - Absolutely. So I’m on all the social media, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, although reluctantly, I have to say.
Haley - Instagram is so fun! You’re gonna love it!
Julie - I know! I’m just new to it, I’m learning. But it’s all @DrJulieLopez and that’s my website also, drjulielopez.com. the book is available on Amazon, we’ve got a Kindle edition and paperback and I hope to really spread the word about this important part of the way our human system works, so people don’t feel broken or like there’s no way out of these patterns that seem to make no sense whatsoever.
Haley - I think your book does a wonderful job of unpacking that for us. And giving like super clear ideas of what we can do next. So thank you, thank you so much and thank you specifically for, I said this the last time we recorded, but you really include so much about adoptees that is accessible to the general public as well. And so it’s almost like a learning tool for other people to understand the adopted experience also so that’s amazing, thank you so much.
Thank you and I’m really proud of that. I hope that this helps to also in a sneaky way, spread more awareness to people who think their lives haven’t been touched by adoption.
Haley - So good, thanks Julie.
Julie - Thank you.
Haley - I’m really excited because I am going to get to meet Dr Julie when I’m in Washington D.C. in a couple of weeks. I’m presenting at the American Adoption Congress Conference. And you can find details of that, I’ll have the registration info linked in the show notes. And if you’re coming please let me know so I can say hi to you in person, we’re gonna have a listener meetup. So you can check the Facebook page for Adoptees On for details of the time and where and when and all that. So I’d love to connect with you and I’m bringing along my Adoptees On stickers so, make sure you come and grab a sticker from me. As always a big thank you to my Patreon supporters. If you just need more Adoptees On chat, there is actually a brand new Adoptees Off Script podcast that is just for monthly supporters. This show, Adoptees On, that you’re listening to right now, is always going to be free for adoptees, I always want Adoptees to have free support available. Especially with the Healing Series, it’s just so critical to me and I just believe in it so much. So this show wouldn’t be possible without monthly supporters. So as a gift to thank you for monthly support, Adoptees Off Script is available to monthly supporters and you can find out more details, AdopteesOn.com/partner. And right now, there’s quite a few episodes up with some familiar voices to you and we are talking, Adoptees Off Script is talking about things that we wouldn’t necessarily share on this show because there’s so many listeners but with a smaller, more intimate audience over on Patreon, you bet. We go there. So I’d love to have you as a monthly supporter and say thank you with that Adoptees Off Script podcast. Thanks so much for listening. Let’s talk again next Friday.