Ep. 3: Diving Deep Into Therapy with Will Messer

Ep. 3: Diving Deep Into Therapy with Will Messer

Clinical Social Worker Will Messer joins Lorilee to talk about all things therapy. The two get into some of the different approaches out there, how to ask for help, and what healing looks like — all in the name of living a life full of joy, clarity, and peace. Will has extensive experience working with individuals and couples. He is a Certified EFT Therapist, Certified Enneagram Trainer and Coach, and level one AEDP Therapist based in Tennessee.


  • On Will’s playlist: “One of a Kind” – Lin-Manuel Miranda, Juan de Marcos González
  • Cultivating safe spaces
  • Connecting with a therapist and understanding why we seek to heal
  • Types of therapy
  • Mindfulness
  • The importance of connecting with and listening to yourself
  • Embracing joy, gratitude, and connection
  • One tool for our G&G toolbox

Mentioned in this episode:

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Episode 3 Transcript

[00:00:00] Lorilee Rager: Hey, I’m Lorilee Rager and this is Ground and Gratitude. It’s a podcast about designing the life you want, one that not only grows but also gives. 

Before today’s episode, I’d like to tell you about where I bank, Her Bank by Legends Bank. This episode of Ground and Gratitude is sponsored by them. Her Bank celebrates, honors, and supports women, especially entrepreneurs, by providing financial services and resources through a core team of experienced female bankers, which is so reassuring to me. Her Bank creates a bridge to help women overcome barriers when it comes to money conversations and decisions while providing women with a better banking experience. Check out Her-Bank.com to learn more. Her Bank is a brand of Legends Bank. Legends Bank is a member FDIC equal housing lender.

My guest today is Will Messer, one of the most genuine, warm and intelligent guys I know. Will has almost a decade of experience working with individuals and couples. He is a licensed clinical social worker, certified EFT therapist, certified Enneagram trainer and coach, and a level one AEDP therapist. I can’t think of a better person to be talking to you today about therapy. We’ll break down the different types of therapy, how to feel good about wanting therapy, and how gratitude and joy can help us all heal. 

Welcome Will. Thank you so much for joining me and being a part of the Ground and Gratitude podcast today. 

[00:02:02] Will Messer: Thank you so much for having me. It’s really good to be with you. 

[00:02:05] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, absolutely. I’m very, very excited to have you today. And I have a big, serious, serious question right out of the gate. It’s a big kickoff question. I hope you can handle it. 

[00:02:17] Will Messer: I’m ready.

[00:02:17] Lorilee Rager: I wanted to know what song is on repeat on your playlist today. 

[00:02:23] Will Messer: Well, it will be a kid song. Uh, my kids have been into the movie Vivo, so the song “One of a Kind,” which of course is the genius of Lin Manuel Miranda. Um, and it’s very catchy. So that would, that would be the one, yeah. 

[00:02:40] Lorilee Rager: That’s good to know. I have not heard that, but I love anything by Lin Manuel. 

[00:02:44] Will Messer: It’s not even fair how smart he is. 

[00:02:46] Lorilee Rager: Absolutely true. Absolutely true. Okay. I’ll have to listen to that one. I will definitely have to listen to that one. I was, um, thinking the other night, um, uh, the song Troll, that came from the movie Trolls, instantly made me think of being, the boys being really little and playing and watching Trolls and all that. So it’s, kids’ songs are okay. So kids’ songs are, they’re actually maybe better than they used to be. 

[00:03:11] Will Messer: Yeah, no, I think that’s pretty right? Yes.

[00:03:14] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. Good. All right. I like it. I like it very much, very much. Well, uh, so jumping right in, I wanted to talk therapy because it’s definitely my favorite topic now basically of all time. And I know it’s what you do for a living and a great topic. We’ve had some great, you know, side conversations as we became friends and talked about some really good personal stuff. And, you know, right out of the gate, I was, I was drawn to, um, the fact that you like to create a safe space, um, for your, your patients and probably for yourself and safe spaces, um, is something that I explored through my grad school research. And I wrote a lot about it because as I began to go through therapy and look at my childhood and sense of place, I began to remember safe places where I had warm blankets and my, and my drawing crayons or with my grandmother. And now it’s actually a really anchoring thought when I have maybe some anxiety or get upset. And your, your office and your vibe and your, your, um, practice kind of revolves around that. So I thought I would, um, I wanted to ask you a little bit about that. Can you tell me a little bit about it? 

[00:04:41] Will Messer: Yeah. Um, what do you want to know? 

[00:04:45] Lorilee Rager: Well, so specifically, how does therapy, in your thoughts, um, cultivate safety? Um, safety of the self.

[00:04:56] Will Messer: Yeah. Oh, that’s such a good question. How does therapy create safety of the self? Um, well, as, you know, what you said about your safe places and you mentioned your grandmother, right? There’s a person that’s a part of that for you. Um, and so I, so a lot of the work I do is, well, really all of the work I do is, in the therapy offices, is based on attachment science. Um, and I’m going to bring that back around to safe place because, you know, attachment and relationship is really our first safe place when we’re born, right? You know, the first thing we do coming out of the womb is cry, and, which is a signal for attachment, right. It’s a kind of a posture of, I can’t create safety for myself at the beginning, right. And so when we’re kids and we have safe attachment, we have secure attachment, we have people that we can signal with whether it’s cries and then it gets more sophisticated into talking and, um, you know, being able to verbalize our needs. But when we have that experience of a safe relationship, we are able to then, um, venture out more into the world. So like kids at a playground will go, they’ll go out a little bit, check back in with mom and dad, go out a little bit further, take a little bit more risk, come back in, and then go out a little bit further, right? And so what we’re understanding is that that child needs to get a sense that, um, somebody is still there to care for me to help them go create a sense of safety out in their environment for themselves. If that makes sense. 

[00:06:47] Lorilee Rager: Yes, absolutely. 

[00:06:48] Will Messer: To feel safe, to feel safe, going out further. 

[00:06:50] Lorilee Rager: Right, right. 

[00:06:51] Will Messer: So there’s this, there’s this real intimate connection between being able to have a safe relationship and establish a sense of safety within me. And then if you’ve never experienced safe relationship, and for a child who loses that as they get older and then maybe their caregivers are just unavailable, busy, or maybe their family don’t, their families don’t know what to do with their big emotions that they’re in distress about, a child will have to find other ways to find a sense of peace and calm. Um, so it might be, um, that usually those are those things away from a relationship are, um, things that really help the person step away from their feelings.

[00:07:36] Lorilee Rager: Ah, right. 

[00:07:37] Will Messer: Distract, numb, um, get away from, um, 

[00:07:42] Lorilee Rager: Escape, right. 

[00:07:42] Will Messer: And so I can think back. Yeah. Yeah. And so, you know, skip forward, like the therapy room, the relationship, the therapeutic relationship is really the cultivator of the safety in the room. And as a person has an experience of someone maybe like your grandmother, you know, like just really being there, really being with them, really having a sense that no matter how I am, how I’m showing up, that person’s there.

[00:08:13] Lorilee Rager: Yes, yes. That connection that’s um, you know, my grandmother didn’t judge me. My grandmother loved me unconditionally and, and her home and the things there and even the smells and the foods, you know, all surrounded that safety feeling. Yeah, yeah.

[00:08:38] Will Messer: Yes. Exactly. 

[00:08:39] Lorilee Rager: Right, right. 

[00:08:41] Will Messer: Yeah. So we’re, you know, we’re just, I’m giving, as a therapist, I’m trying to just set people up, whether I’m working with a couple or I’m working with an individual, I’m just trying to give them positive experiences of relational safety. So that it gets, starts to get internalized so that they can go feel safer in their environments because they’ve internalized acceptance. They’ve internalized, I’m okay the way I am. They’ve internalized being sad or angry or scared is okay. And that helps them to be able to move through that away from the therapy office. 

[00:09:17] Lorilee Rager: Just like you said, with the mother at the playground, um, I can see you can come to your, your office and the safe space and you get that same comfort, you know, as you maybe did as a child with your mother or grandmother. And then when you go out into the world, you feel better, you feel a little safer to, to tread lightly and then you can come back again, feel the safety, then try and go back out. I completely, I can see the analogy. And I think I even read about it. Maybe both Esther Perel has a talk about it and maybe Bessel van der Kolk in The Body Keeps the Score. And maybe even observing, um, a doctor observing parents or children, parents and children on the playground and watching that. And if the mother does disappear, maybe she just goes to her car for a moment, the distress the child’s in when they can’t find them. 

[00:10:15] Will Messer: Yes. 

[00:10:15] Lorilee Rager: So that makes complete sense. And, and I know that, um, specifically for me during the pandemic and being shifted quickly to online virtual learning for grad school and teaching, and, um, running my business, I created this, the spare bedroom that had just an old Christmas tree and dried dog poop in it and cleaned it up, added my favorite books and things. I didn’t even realize what I was doing, but I began to, I put my grandmother’s quilt here and began doing some virtual therapy and some virtual sobriety meetings. And, and now I get that warm feeling when I come and go just from this room. 

[00:11:03] Will Messer: And that’s where you are right now? 

[00:11:04] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. Yeah. That’s where I’m recording the podcast. 

[00:11:06] Will Messer: I love it. I love it. That’s awesome.

[00:11:07] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And so the safe spaces concept just really started to affect me as I talked in my own therapy sessions about where I felt safe or where I felt grounded. And it, it just, it manifested into these happy childhood memories of safety. And then this space, I’d never had a space that was mine as an adult. It’s like, I didn’t think I needed it. 

[00:11:36] Will Messer: Yeah, yeah.

[00:11:37] Lorilee Rager: Um, so that, that was something that, um, you know, I wanted you to expand a little more and obviously explain to the listeners what you do. And, because I want people to understand how you help people feel good, um, about wanting therapy, about feeling safe, um, and, and all the different types of therapies. So tell me a little bit about that, if you can. 

[00:12:05] Will Messer: Yeah, to try to help your listeners, like, get a feel for why therapy and what it is, is that kind of what you’re going after?

[00:12:12] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, and why it’s good and safe.

[00:12:15] Will Messer: Yeah, well, um, yeah, it should be safe, right? It always should be. And so there’s, you know, there’s, there’s a, but having, having said that like, it’s a relationship, right? So you don’t jive with everybody, not everybody are you going to feel an authentic connection with. Um, and so I say that, you know, not to be kind of a negative, but I also want people to know going into therapy that it’s really normal if you don’t connect immediately with your therapist or with that therapist in particular at all. That’s okay. That’s the way relationships work, right? Yeah. I’ve had a couple, you know, three different therapists and, um, you know, like I’ve had that experience of like this person, yes. This person is exactly what I need right now. And I’ve had that experience of like, I like this person, I’m just not sure this is what I need right now, you know. And that’s normal. 

Um, but essentially you should just feel a very natural connection with the person. It should just, should kind of feel easy, um, for you to be you. And, um, you know, really we do, you know, one of the things I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is, you know, therapy is so heavy, right? Like it can be so heavy and it’s hard work. It is, it’s hard work a lot of the time and by necessity it needs to be that. But I think it’s easy to lose track of the “why” we do that. And like the reason we do the hard work and we feel the hard things is actually so that we can move into, um, experiencing more joy, more gratitude, more clarity, more peace. And be able to thrive long-term and do things like you’re doing, like building a beautiful, safe place for yourself, where you can continue to have lightness and joy and gratitude, right.

[00:14:17] Lorilee Rager: Right. 

[00:14:18] Will Messer: And so we, you know, we, and, and learning to stay with positive experiences, learning to be in them is in and of itself a very challenging thing for a lot of us. And, and, it can be really scary sometimes to actually feel good, right. So part of therapy is not, it’s not just, yes, let’s, yes, let’s move into where you’re hurting and let’s care for that, right? When we’ve, when we’ve cared for that, there’s something else that starts to emerge when we we’ve really dealt with hurt or the sadness or the fear, other feelings start to show up inside, like peace, like a sense of relief, like lightness. So the other part of the way that I work in therapy is really making a big deal about that and really learning and helping your brain really take in the experience of relief, of joy, of gratitude. That is really the healing part of therapy.

[00:15:24] Lorilee Rager: Yes. 

[00:15:25] Will Messer: So it’s like kind of two things. 

[00:15:27] Lorilee Rager: Right, right. 

[00:15:28] Will Messer: Yeah. We go down so that we can go up. 

[00:15:31] Lorilee Rager: That’s exactly right. I think of it, I call it with myself, um, the inner bobber, like when you’re fishing and you’ve got the little, little bobber that, it’s important to me, um, and I’ve learned this through a little bit of research with the Enneagram, being a number nine, that through therapy and talking that it’s really important to get my inner bobber to be steady. That, that I really stay fearful of, you know, high emotions of anger or even, even excitement, high emotions scare me or the really low emotions of sadness and fear. And that I had, I tried to do anything under the sun to keep that inner bobber steady and starting out as a child in my safe space maybe that was coloring and drawing and or cooking with my grandma. But as I became an adult, I, I, I, lost touch with those or, or dropped them and alcohol gave me that. But it didn’t fix what was really making that bobber tug and jump and jerk. So that’s, that’s kinda what I learned in therapy. And exactly, like you said, it didn’t have to be so heavy and so serious. Um, you know, it was, yes I needed to wrestle with some demons, but I also needed to just hug a little too. 

[00:17:04] Will Messer: Right. 

[00:17:04] Lorilee Rager: If that makes sense. 

[00:17:05] Will Messer: Absolutely. 

[00:17:07] Lorilee Rager: Um, and, and so I wanted to explore, because what I don’t understand, and I think, I think you can help us all, is what are the different types of therapies and the different like frequently asked questions maybe you get. Because as I now am comfortable with it and comfortable with talking about it and think everyone should be a part of it, I noticed a lot of people aren’t, or they’re just confused. I mean, like being a licensed clinical social worker with a lot of other letters behind your name, um, you know, like I know you’re, you particularly have like EFT and AEDP, so could you help us understand a little bit more of the types of therapies. 

[00:17:51] Will Messer: I can try.

[00:17:53] Lorilee Rager: Okay. 

[00:17:53] Will Messer: There are a lot of them. Um, so I, again, I will, I’m going to really kind of put point and center for anybody listening, the most important thing is just the organic sense of connection with the therapist. Like research-wise, modality in terms of what the letters are that a person is doing therapy, EFT, AEDP, really what matters is the therapeutic alliance and the therapeutic relationship, so. 

[00:18:28] Lorilee Rager: I agree. 

[00:18:29] Will Messer: Yeah. So take somebody, I would, you know, I probably would be drawn to try somebody who’s got a reputation for being good, right, over somebody with a lot of letters. 

[00:18:42] Lorilee Rager: Okay, yeah. That’s good.

[00:18:45] Will Messer: Yeah, but, so there’s a lot, I mean, I, I, our, our field is so, I mean, it feels like, is constantly evolving and changing, you know, for the, about the decade I’ve been in it already. Um, and I can’t speak to all of the history adequately and all of the evolutions. Um, I can maybe just tell you, what I think has really changed my career and really changed the way I feel about my work. 

[00:19:12] Lorilee Rager: Oh yeah, please, yes. 

[00:19:14] Will Messer: Um, I, you know, early on in my career, I was exposed to a lot more, um, cognitive type therapies where, you know, see, so cognitive behavioral therapy is one that comes to mind. Acceptance and commitment therapy has a pretty good, you know, a sort of CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy, but with a mindfulness piece that’s really important. I was really drawn to that, they felt comfortable for me. I’m a six on the Enneagram, so they, they were really up my alley of like, oh great, thinking the way we’re going to get there. You know? And which, you know, come to realize the shortcomings of thinking for myself personally. But, um, but they, they were, they really drew me in and I, and I don’t want to disrespect those modalities at all. Um, they are still very evidence-based and helpful for people. So let me make sure I’m clear about that. Um, what really drastically changed my career was when I came across, uh, a couple of approaches that are less top down. So like when I say top down, I mean, like, change your thinking and beliefs, and then let that permeate into transformation and through the rest of you. So that was more of the cognitive type of approach. 

What changed the work for me was when I came across more bottom up approaches. And by that, I mean, approaches that really get into the experience, the bodily experience, of our emotions and help support a person to be able to actually have the space, to feel through those things, to feel through the waves inside and their nervous system all the way through which then leads to the top and leads to more mental clarity, leads to this sense of, of stability inside and alignment inside. And that that’s where I came, I came across emotionally focused therapy, which is what I use exclusively with couples, um, and where it’s really focused on the experience of emotion. Which is not the same thing as saying we teach people to go do everything that their feelings tell them to do. That, oh, we’re just going, oh, you’re just telling everybody to just always be, you know, just make emotional decisions, which, you know, that’s not the same thing. It’s actually, it’s actually, when we have space to feel them, we actually end up making better decisions for us that are good for us. 

[00:21:53] Lorilee Rager: Okay. Right, right. 

[00:21:56] Will Messer: So for example, if I can’t feel anger, if I’m shut off to my anger and I’m in a work environment where there’s a lot of wrong things happening, but I can’t feel my anger, I will never have the energy and I will never find it within me to get out of that situation or try to make that situation better. I will be stuck just continually getting hurt, stepped on, or whatever, right. So I need the energy, I need to be able to feel that anger. That’s what anger is, it’s energy. I need that to be able to move me into a place of more flourishing, right? 

[00:22:36] Lorilee Rager: Yes, for sure. 

[00:22:37] Will Messer: Yeah. So, so the attachment based, um, therapies to me, um, they’ve been around for a couple of decades, you know, and, but I, I didn’t come across until about 10 years ago and they really have changed the way that I work and it’s emotion focused therapy. And then the other approach I love is AEDP which, a lot of big words, uh, accelerated experiential dynamic psychotherapy. Um, but if I could translate that, it’s just, it’s, it’s a relational therapy where the therapist is actually being a pretty real person, not being this distant kind of removed with a, you know, clipboard. Mhm, mhm, mhm. 

[00:23:21] Lorilee Rager: Right. Behind a desk.

[00:23:23] Will Messer: Yeah. It’s like, I’m actually showing up and I’m bringing my real authentic self into the room in a way that serves the person in front of me. And so a lot of people have that leftover image of therapists that they’re just indifferent, they’re just a blank wall, and you know, they’re just going to listen to me. And, and a lot of therapy I really feel is moving more toward, you know, a more active stance from the therapist. From a relational stance, which to me is like, oh God, thank goodness. 

[00:23:58] Lorilee Rager: Yes, I can feel the, I can feel the relief in that. Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. So it’s really interesting how you said the top down to the bottom up, because it had me thinking in my own experience of my first fears of finding a therapist three or four years ago. And my pretending to go in and pretending to be the right person and say the right things and think the way they wanted me to think. Like I came out of the gate trying to be this people pleaser and instantly had no connection. It is funny when you, when you lie to your therapist, they don’t seem like they’re a good therapist like it’s. But, but when, when push came to shove and my anxiety had taken over in my physical appearance and panic attacks and weight gain and, and everything. I physically had, I mean, had to throw in the towel and had to be honest. And I don’t know if that’s what you’re saying in the sense, but it makes me think of it that I, my feelings and physical emotions had just had enough. I couldn’t outthink it anymore. And so I went asking for help for anxiety so I could work harder, work faster, work better, help more people, do more of the people pleasing things. But I was like, just help me with anxiety. But it, it turned into, okay, we’re definitely going to give, give you some, some help and tips with anxiety and it turned now into this healthy thinking, clarity, freedom, I don’t bite my nails. And it accidentally led into this, I don’t need a drink anymore, um, situation, so. 

[00:25:45] Will Messer: And it sounds like you started being honest with yourself. 

[00:25:48] Lorilee Rager: Right. The truth, truth telling. It was really something I didn’t know is such a key piece. Um, when you already consider yourself a good person, an honest person, a positive person, a grateful person, you don’t want to be truthful and say, but I’m really, really sad and I don’t know why. Or I’m really, really angry and I’m not supposed to be, because we were taught, never be angry. 

[00:26:15] Will Messer: Yes. Yeah. 

[00:26:16] Lorilee Rager: Um, so. 

[00:26:19] Will Messer: Yeah, I love that. 

[00:26:20] Lorilee Rager: Does that, does that make sense? 

[00:26:23] Will Messer: It does make sense. And yeah, I think it’s one of the mysteries, uh, the, the great mysteries of life, which is why do some, why are some people when they start to face their suffering and they start to suffer, and often for us it’s in our thirties or forties at some point where we have those great bouts of challenges for the first time, a lot of people happens younger, some people happens later, but on average. Why is it some people are able to start being honest with themselves and some people aren’t? I have no idea. I have no idea what that is. Like, why do people wake up, some people wake up and some people stay asleep, you know. 

[00:27:04] Lorilee Rager: Right. The whole stuck and, um, rock bottom. And it’s hard to define and, and not everyone’s rock bottom looks the same. And you don’t have to have a Jerry Springer show atomic bomb explosion to cause it. But, I felt like we all have that inner voice, you know, gently telling us, it’s actually not screaming at us, I don’t feel like, but it’s gently telling us, hey, hey you maybe shouldn’t do that. Or, hey, maybe you should think about changing how you do that. So, I felt like the mindfulness, 

[00:27:43] Will Messer: That brings us back,

[00:27:45] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. 

[00:27:45] Will Messer: I’m sorry, go ahead. 

[00:27:45] Lorilee Rager: No, no, you go ahead. The mindfulness aspect is what I was going to ask you about, of it, of therapy. 

[00:27:52] Will Messer: What you were saying made me think of how we started, which is the safe space, you know. The mindfulness, to be able to be mindful you have to have some kind of space for yourself where you can listen and you actually listen inwardly and actually ask yourself what’s it, what’s going on inside, you know. And some of my memories of that were like, I grew up up a holler in West Virginia, you know, and I was the first kid on the school bus in the morning and the last kid off, you know, which meant I probably had an hour ride both ways.

[00:28:26] Lorilee Rager: Absolutely, me too.

[00:28:26] Will Messer: Did you really? 

[00:28:27] Lorilee Rager: Yes. Hour both ways, first one on. 

[00:28:30] Will Messer: That’s awesome. 

[00:28:31] Lorilee Rager: Tell me about that. Tell me about that. 

[00:28:33] Will Messer: Yeah. I just, I mean, so much of the time for me was just sit and was spent in silence. I mean, I’d interact with peers, but you know, there were, there would be a lot of times where all of us were just looking out the window, you know. There was, like, just this open space where I can process the day. And there was an, there was nothing else I could do. Like, I mean, there was literally nothing else I could do. So I was sort of forced into introspection, in a way. And I’m really grateful for that now, and I think I credit that a good bit with why I found my way into doing therapy, because being, like, being curious about internal things was something I had a lot of time for as a kid. And I think I developed kind of an affinity for, you know, exploring. And also just growing up in the country and it’s more quiet in nature, and, you know, I spent a lot of time as a, as a kid outside. Um, sometimes, a lot of times by myself. I was the youngest of my siblings by a good bit. And I had a friend, my closest friend was a mile, was like a mile away. We hung out all the time, but there was still a lot of times it was just me and it was just like, that was a lot of my safe space was nature and the school bus rides where I could really listen to myself. 

[00:29:51] Lorilee Rager: I absolutely completely relate because I was the exact same way in the Kentucky version. Um, and I know exactly what you’re saying. And I don’t think a lot of us get that today. I mean, I know we don’t because the smart devices and the electronics and the screens and the noise and the, I don’t even commute hardly that far. And I miss a good commute. And now if I do commute, it seems like I’m multitasking and texting or on the phone, or trying to get in three or four podcasts and listen to a book for a minute. I couldn’t imagine that I could immediately think back to childhood and being on that school bus with no devices in my hands and just looking at the cornfields as far as I can see. And that, that’s a true moment of peace. That I wish, that I, that I realize now, as an adult, through doing therapy, I now have a choice to make that happen.

[00:30:51] Will Messer: Yeah. 

[00:30:52] Lorilee Rager: That’s what I feel like therapy gives, in some way what you do gives me permission to understand I have a choice. There’s no reason why I can’t silently go on the country ride and get in my car. 

[00:31:07] Will Messer: That’s true. 

[00:31:09] Lorilee Rager: And that such a strange concept to me that you have a choice or realizing that you, you don’t have a choice. It seems like I came to therapy with all of this list of things to fix about me. I have to do this, I have to do this, I have to do that. I have to talk to my dad and I don’t want to, and I have to help this person and I don’t want to, and I have to, have to, have to. And what are your thoughts on, on that, just in general, of the choice or permission that therapy gave me to feel the feelings which led to understanding I do have a choice. 

[00:31:56] Will Messer: Yeah, yeah. I, what’s making me think is, I think it’s probably pretty common for some of our earlier therapy experiences for us to, um, make the therapy, try to turn the therapy into something that helps me just be better at the things I already do, which maybe are the problem.

[00:32:22] Lorilee Rager: Right, right. 

[00:32:23] Will Messer: Right. So like, 

[00:32:24] Lorilee Rager: Exactly. 

[00:32:25] Will Messer: Yeah. So if I’m going in for anxiety, which would be what I, what I go to therapy for is, you know, it’s like, just help me stress better, like help me find better solutions. 

[00:32:35] Lorilee Rager: Help me stress better please. 

[00:32:37] Will Messer: Yeah. You know, or if it’s somebody that really is people pleasing a lot, it’s like, how can, you know, coming in and pleasing the therapist and then wanting the therapist to help you make everybody else in your world happy, you know? And, and, and that’s kind of a part of it, is like, that, the therapy relationship then can actually help reveal your style of relating and your strategies that you use because you start pulling your therapist into that. 

[00:33:12] Lorilee Rager: Yes. 

[00:33:13] Will Messer: Right? And a, and a good, and a good therapist is going to be able to gently help you see that, right. And, and then help you to really start to listen inside and get in touch and connect with yourself. Yeah, because that’s really like, there’s a place under us, you know, to, to we, you know, you, and I have talked about Enneagram before, like our Enneagram number, our personality, it’s just our strategy. It’s just how we’ve learned to move through life and stay safe and get needs met. And, but there’s really something under it. There’s really something under that. We’re more than that. And, you know, part of that is, part of the way into that is listening to our feelings. 

[00:34:03] Lorilee Rager: Right. That’s right. And I think, I love how you said I, I do think, I know I do and a lot of my friends that are open to talking about therapy, or I guess we’ll call it therapy curious. They’re not gone there yet, but they wouldn’t talk to me about it and, and find it safe and nonjudgmental. And, and they are like, well, here’s this problem. Help me continue to attack this problem the way I normally attack it. It’s, it’s just like you just said that it’s, I think that, that’s, and if that’s what gets you in the door to having that conversation, by all means do it. 

[00:34:47] Will Messer: Yes. 

[00:34:47] Lorilee Rager: And, and, and I, I consider myself a hard-headed human that tried it multiple different ways. And it’s, now it’s comical to look back at all the ways I tried to attack something that I shouldn’t be attacking at all, but I shouldn’t even be approaching. Um, but I learned that through again, the therapy and meditation and mindfulness, and I remember not even knowing what mindfulness was and completely being so confused. And, um, I listened to a Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday podcast with Eckhart Tolle. 

[00:35:29] Will Messer: Nice. 

[00:35:30] Lorilee Rager: And she explained that as well. She said, um, what does that mean? What does that mean? You know, you tell me to feel my toes on the steps as I’m going upstairs. And that was the only thing I hung on to and was like, I mean, okay, I can do that, I guess. I mean, normally I’m running up the steps with my phone in my hand and a coffee and a water and a couple of books, and I’m bolting up the steps thinking about what I got to do when I get to the top of the steps. But now I actually don’t and I put my foot firmly on the step and feel the step. And that was really the tiny little shift. Does that make sense? 

[00:36:08] Will Messer: It does make sense. 

[00:36:10] Lorilee Rager: That was just like, ah, okay, just be on the step. 

[00:36:15] Will Messer: Yup. Which is something we knew how to do when we were kids.

[00:36:18] Lorilee Rager: Right, it all goes back to that. We did. 

[00:36:21] Will Messer: Yeah. We’ve just unlearned that because our brains got more sophisticated and, you know, got more, we, the prefrontal cortex got fully developed and we were like, oh, we can go solve everything all the time and let’s just stay busy up here in our heads all the time, all the time, all the time. 

[00:36:41] Lorilee Rager: And overthink it. 

[00:36:43] Will Messer: Yeah, and then just not be present, right. Not really be present in where we are and grounded where we are and, and within our own experience, like not connecting with anything more than our thoughts. 

[00:36:57] Lorilee Rager: Right. Yeah. Not the physical. 

[00:36:59] Will Messer: I’m really good at that. I’m really good at just being in my head and overthinking and looping and, um, yeah, I’m like, 

[00:37:10] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, me too.

[00:37:11] Will Messer: It’s one of those things I found myself out 

[00:37:14] Lorilee Rager: How do you, okay, so I’ll throw this back at you. How do you, how do you combat that? How do you, how do you stop it, stop that? Any tools or, or methods or ways? 

[00:37:27] Will Messer: Yeah. Yeah. I think for me, um, there’s a real relational piece. When I’m most underwater in my head and I’m worst case in everything and I’m really panicky, I like, there’s a sense that I’m, I’m just by myself there. So if I can find a way to not be alone and make myself ask for help, which I don’t. I, I, you know, I’m a therapist who, like, embraces people, ask you for help all day long, but I, myself struggle with asking for help . It’s so hard to just say, I’m really struggling. This is where I’m at. But if I can let my wife know that, like, you know, I can’t talk to her about details of my work, confidentiality, but I can tell her how I’m doing inside. I can, I’m really, if I can just say I’m really in my head about this case, it gives me some kind of like connection point to the here and now, which helps ground just a little bit. It doesn’t take it away. Um, But you know, or if I talk to my supervisor, if it’s a case, I can just not be alone in it, and, um, in some way. It’s, it’s not like I’m asking somebody to always solve it necessarily, but just the knowing there’s somebody that’s with me, that’s going to be with me, it’s soothing. Um, but also I, you know, I, um, like things that really force my attention and to be here. Um, like going and just hanging out, playing with my kids, you know, going somewhere, leaving my phone in the car, things like that when I’m, when I’m in a better place and I’m doing that type of thing more often anyway, just as a practice, I’m not even giving myself the option of going into problem solving work mode and that. Kind of like the school bus did for us as kids. Just like there’s no connective option. I’m just here, just now. Things like that really help me a lot. 

[00:39:31] Lorilee Rager: Yeah, yeah. I think changing the environment. I had read a tip of that too, that if you are really in your own head and really, you know, swimming and drowning of feeling in, in thought that just getting physically outside or physically in a different room helps. And, um, I write down, I do the morning pages every morning. And you talk about getting out of your own head. There’s something about dumping it onto that page and letting the page carry it. Um, but also like you said, the community of, of someone else, no, you don’t want them to solve it, you don’t even have to even vomit out all the details. It’s just, hey, this is where I’m at. Can you just kind of hold space for that 

[00:40:21] Will Messer: Exactly.

[00:40:23] Lorilee Rager: is a really beautiful thing for sure. For sure. Well, this kind of circles around the last question and topic is really everything we’ve talked about, which is really beautiful is how do you think we humans find, understand, and embrace things like joy and gratitude and connections? Um, how do we find it? Because gratitude can be so hard for some. 

[00:40:51] Will Messer: Yeah, for sure. And it, and it’s especially hard when, if you’re really in a bad situation and, you know, to, to find things to be grateful for can be tone deaf, if I as a therapist, somebody that’s in a really awful situation, if I just say, oh, just be grateful, be grateful, whatever. 

[00:41:10] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. 

[00:41:10] Will Messer: You know? Um, so yeah, I, I, I think, um, I’m going to keep, you know, sort of saying the same thing, I guess, is our best way there is by finding a way to be really connected with ourselves. And, and being able to get the support, we need to be able to really feel the things that are inside. Um, and of course, like the concrete practices, like really, you know, morning pages, you know, silence, meditating, yoga, writing, things that give you that sense of connection with yourself are a huge part of that, a huge part of that. But I think that connection with yourself really is the biggest thing. And whatever helps you to maintain a sense of, keep short accounts with yourself and your feelings and your emotional life. Um, you’re going to be able to move through emotions more quickly into a place where you feel open and expansive enough to stay with joy and stay with gratitude. 

[00:42:25] Lorilee Rager: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. I can see, I see what you’re saying because you can’t just jump to the gratitude, you can’t go from the deep, dark, sad place, and then just flip a switch, and I actually talk about that in another episode called toxic positivity. You can’t just, you know, pray it away or be thank, more thankful, or it could always be a worse situation, because I see what you’re saying. You have to, just, the very first step, I see what you’re saying, is to sit with it. I call it, sit with sad and connect with it. And, and you don’t have to do anything, there’s no action. You don’t have to yoga it out or, or ride it out right then. The very first step is to sit with it because I actually can see gratitude in that. If, if, say when I, when I was at some of my weaker moments in sobriety and I really, really wanted the drink and I just sat with it, I just sat through the craving and sat through the sad or sat through the emotion, the next day, I was very, very grateful and I didn’t do anything. Actually take, I took no action, but I’m grateful for that. Um, finding it in the, in the just sitting with it is, um, part of it. 

[00:43:54] Will Messer: Yeah. I don’t really think that, I mean, one of the things I love about the therapy I use a lot of, AEDP, is there’s this word that they’ve created called transformants, which they define as the innate drive toward healing, innate drive toward flourishing. That really built within us there’s a drive toward that. And in other words, our bodies know how and, and, and want to be able to flourish because there’s, there’s real survival value in being in a place of flourishing because you can, when you’re in a place of, of groundedness and you’re in a place of flourishing, you can then prepare out for the future better. You can build security for yourself long-term more, right. So our bodies are trying to get us into that place, and that what happens in our emotions are a part of what carries us there. And they’re trying to carry us there. Our sadness is trying to tell us we need support and care so that we can move into a place of flourishing. Our anger is trying to tell us something wrong or dangerous is happening. You need to mobilize, you need to make this right, so that we can flourish, right. 

[00:45:15] Lorilee Rager: Absolutely. 

[00:45:16] Will Messer: And so it’s, it’s, we’ve, we’ve, what’s happened to so many of us is our, in our childhood, or even at some point in adulthood our feelings, our body’s signaling us for what we need, either we weren’t able to get it or we felt so overwhelmingly alone in a difficult emotional experience that we had to sort of jump off the surfboard. We had to like numb it with something like alcohol. We had to like, just distract and get away from it cause it was too intense, right. So then we’ve, we’ve had to look over and move past and the thing, the very thing that’s trying to help us thrive. And so that’s a lot of like what doing personal work is, is, in therapy and other ways, is actually being able to go back to those experiences where we had to jump off the surfboard and figuring out a way to stay on it all the way through and feel sad, like you’re saying, and be able to feel it all the way through. And if we’ve never had an experience of someone really being with us in that, then having somebody with you to give you the courage to stay with the wave, stay with that sadness, stay with that anger, let’s actually go with it, let’s let’s face that fear together. 

[00:46:37] Lorilee Rager: Oh yeah. That’s really powerful. And what a therapist does. You’re in that safe space for a moment to say, okay, we’re going to try to ride this wave that you’ve, that you’ve bailed on your whole life. You’ve jumped off every time, but I’m here with you. 

[00:46:52] Will Messer: Right. 

[00:46:53] Lorilee Rager: And we can ride it together and just feel it. 

[00:46:56] Will Messer: Yes, exactly. So it’s amazing what you’ll see when somebody can do that. And then the space, like if you’ve ever just had a good cry, you know, if, if you’ve ever been able to, um, like really face a fear or, or if you had some righteous anger that really needed to come out and you face somebody that you’ve been scared of your whole life, there is something that happens in the body that’s where the person just gets super aligned and you see, like, I can see their posture shift and their head gets higher and they’re just calm and they’re , they repeatedly will say, I’ll ask them what’s going on when I see that, they’ll say, I just feel really here.

[00:47:37] Lorilee Rager: Ooh. Yes. Yes. 

[00:47:38] Will Messer: I just, yeah. I just feel really in the room right now. I feel really aware of my hands and my feet in the room I’m in. 

[00:47:46] Lorilee Rager: Yes, ooh that’s good. And once you get just a small taste of that, you just, I mean, in my case, you just want more and you want it. You’re like, all right, I can ride these waves again. I’ll do it again and again and again and again until it, you know, is less scary. 

[00:48:05] Will Messer: Exactly. 

[00:48:06] Lorilee Rager: Oh, that’s good stuff. So good. Well, that is what I have to talk about today. This has been really, really, really great and such interesting, fascinating stuff. I love what you do for a living and love your transparency today and time. And, um, thank you very much. And one last question is what tool would you leave in our Ground and Gratitude toolbox for others? Something that maybe even helps you get grounded or your clients, or, um, anything that helps give gratitude or what I call helps get you through any dry ground or hard spots or seasons. Any tool. 

[00:48:49] Will Messer: Hmmm. To practice, like a practice, something they can do. 

[00:48:54] Lorilee Rager: Whatever, whatever comes to mind. I mean, it can even just be a mantra quote that you live by or a song or a flower, thought. Just some tool that we would put in the toolbox. 

[00:49:03] Will Messer: Yeah. I mean, like, the question I like to ask, and I think there’s practical, is just leaving people with this question of, what would you be like if all of the parts of you, all of the parts of you, the different parts of you, the happy parts, the sad parts, the angry parts, the grateful parts, all the parts of you were just a little bit less alone? Just a little bit less alone. What would it be like to be you if that were true? 

[00:49:42] Lorilee Rager: That’s a really good thought. 

[00:49:45] Will Messer: And I, I, we live in a society that is, has, uh, the pandemic before the pandemic was isolated. 

[00:49:53] Lorilee Rager: Yes. 

[00:49:54] Will Messer: We were extremely disconnected from each other and ourselves. And so my encouragement I would leave with people is to try to find a way to be less alone.

[00:50:06] Lorilee Rager: Yeah. 

[00:50:06] Will Messer: No, that’s, that’s not a sales pitch for therapy. I don’t think everybody needs to run and go to therapy. 

[00:50:11] Lorilee Rager: Of course. 

[00:50:12] Will Messer: But I do think everybody needs to be less alone. And again, whatever that looks like, I believe that you can have really therapeutic relationships without being in therapy. Um, but that would be what I would leave people with.

[00:50:26] Lorilee Rager: I love it. I love it. It’s a great one. And one that I’m definitely going to think of too. Very good. Thank you so much for being here today. 

[00:50:37] Will Messer: Thanks for having me. You’re welcome. This was, this was super fun. Anytime we get to talk I’m, I’m up for it. 

[00:50:42] Lorilee Rager: Ah, it was great, so good. Thank you very much.

Thanks again so much to Will for creating a safe space for us to have this conversation today and sharing so much great information about the benefits and challenges that come up with therapy. Thank you for tuning into Ground and Gratitude. You can find more about the show at GroundAndGratitude.com. Join me next time for honest conversations, exploring what it means to truly live a life grounded in gratitude. 

Ground and Gratitude is produced by the two famous kiddos, Kelly Drake and AOMcClain, LLC. .