How Self-Compassion Can Change Your Health and Life

Do you ever feel stuck and wonder why you can’t get unblocked? Do you feel anxious or unwell, but you don’t know why? Or maybe you keep yourself so busy you haven’t had time to feel much at all?

You’re not alone.

As adults, we’re often unaware of the ways we’ve learned to protect ourselves from our past, and how those coping mechanisms can affect our mental and physical health.

In this episode, I have a profound conversation with spiritual teacher, author, and motivational speaker Gabby Bernstein about what happens when we get brave enough to wonder what lives beneath our suffering.

We’re exploring the impact of past trauma, methods for calming your nervous system, and what you can do to change the behaviors that are preventing your progression. Plus, Gabby shares her personal story of recovery so you can learn from her lessons and transform your health and your life.


00:01:12 – What do we mean by trauma?
00:05:30 – The switch that flips at 40
00:07:38 – Do you have exiled parts?
00:10:06 – How do you even know what’s in your closet?
00:11:43 – Look at your 3 ways of doing this
00:16:15 – What’s the process for moving past the past?
00:18:18 – Do you use these classic managing behaviors?
00:20:59 – Gabby’s journey to relief
00:22:52 – What is the secret sauce?
00:24:13 – Why you need to notice the C qualities
00:26:53 – Taking the second step
00:28:21 – How this connects to your health
00:33:15 – JJ’s shift regarding true health
00:34:34 – Signs your nervous system is out of balance
00:37:41 – What is impermissible?
00:39:06 – How to begin

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Resources Mentioned in this episode

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Learn more about Gabby Bernstein

Read The Universe Has Your Back

Read Super Attractor

Read Happy Days: The Guided Path from Trauma to Profound Freedom and Inner Peace

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Learn about Internal Family Systems

Read Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection by Dr. John Sarno

Click Here To Read Transcript

ATHE_Transcript_Ep 601_Gabby Bernstein
JJ Virgin: [00:00:00] I’m JJ Virgin, PhD dropout, sorry mom, turned four time New York Times best selling author. Yes, I’m a certified nutrition specialist, fitness hall of famer, and I speak at health conferences and trainings around the globe, but I’m driven by my insatiable curiosity and love of science to keep asking questions, digging for answers, and sharing the information I uncover with as many people as I can.
And that’s why I created the Well, beyond 40 podcast to synthesize and simplify the science of health into actionable strategies to help you thrive. In each episode, we’ll talk about what’s working in the world of wellness from personalized nutrition and healing your metabolism to healthy aging and prescriptive fitness.
Join me on the journey to better health so you can love how you look and feel right now and have the energy to play full out.
So I’ve been talking a lot about how [00:01:00] over the last couple of years I decided to take my nervous system to the gym. You know, I’d done everything diet wise, exercise wise, sleep, supplements, and there was just a thing missing. And that is what we’re going to really be unpacking today, your nervous system and specifically looking at trauma and how it can impact you.
And I say that and I say it carefully because here’s the thing that I think comes to mind when people think of trauma. And it was interesting just talking to my guest today, Gabby Bernstein, good buddy. I actually got to spend some time last summer with her in Peru, which was super fun. But we were talking about the fact that, like, when people think of trauma, they think of this big traumatic event.
Like, when my 16 year old son was a victim of a hit and run and left for dead in the street. And then my 15 year old son saw him in the hospital, like, with bones sticking through his skin, covered in road rash. And what we needed to do to pull Bryce out of that traumatic event. And that’s what we tend to think, but the [00:02:00] reality is, for most of us, it’s probably not the big T traumas as Gabby talks about.
These little things. It might be, you know, what a teacher said to you in second grade or, you know, what your mom said to you or something. And so, we’re going to be unpacking this today and not unpacking like, hey, go open up the Closet and find all your trauma. We’re going to be unpacking how you can start to notice what you’re noticing and start to shift some behaviors that have gotten you to where you want to be, but maybe aren’t going to help you get to that next place and how to work with them with compassion and care and just be curious.
So I am really excited to share this episode with you. It’s. One of my favorites, with one of my favorite humans, and that is Gabby Bernstein, who for over the last 16 years, and I know this is just the start of what she’s doing, she’s had, gosh, how many books now? 10 books. Number one New York Times bestselling author.
You’ve probably heard of some of these. Universe Has [00:03:00] Your Back, Super Attractor, her latest one, which we talk about a lot in this interview, Happy Days. And she also has her weekly podcast, Dear Gabby. And she has something really exciting coming up that you the first to hear about too. I’m not going to tell you yet.
You’ll have to listen to the interview, but we’ll share all of this. In the show notes too, along with my past interview with her, which was way too long ago. Holy smokes. I was like, what took so long? We had to go to Peru to decide to do this. And you’ll get all of this information at
So again, this is gonna give you some real life. Practical tips of things that you can do right now to start to shift things in your life. And so without further ado, I will be right back with Gabby Bernstein. Stay with me.
Gabby Bernstein, welcome back. I haven’t had you on the show for gosh, I remember the last time I had you on the show because I was in my house in [00:04:00] Solana beach. It was like six years ago, way too long ago. Had to go to Peru to hang out with you. You know, to get on the podcast. Yeah. For everybody listening, this is actually really a really funny story.
So I spoke for a group with my buddy, Dave Asprey, and we were actually, I don’t know if you know this part, we were sitting on this porch in Dubai at this wild animal preserve talking about like the next trip on our bucket list. And I go, Oh, I want to go to Peru. We go start speaking at this event and the leaders of this event go, listen, our next trip is to Peru and we want to gift it to you.
And they go, and our speaker at that one is Gabby Bernstein. I go, this is so cool because we have yacked back and forth for I don’t know how many years, never met in person. So I’m now walking into the hotel in Sacred Valley, and I’m expecting to see a person who, I don’t know why I thought this, I thought you were six feet tall, like me, because of your very big presence, and this person comes [00:05:00] over and I’m like, I, who is this?
Cause you’re what? You’re 5′ what?
Gabby Bernstein: 5’4. A little girl.
JJ Virgin: Yeah. But you don’t come off as that.
Gabby Bernstein: I get that a lot. People always meet me and they’re like, you’re so much smaller than I imagined.
JJ Virgin: Yeah. Well, you know, big personality, big personality. So I’ll have to find that picture from us on Machu So they’ll get it.
So that was so super fun. And it was really fun to like get to experience your teachings and everything else. And it’s a perfect real. Set up for this audience, because I feel like now with well beyond 40, that there’s like a little switch that flips at 40, where all of a sudden you’re really ready to take on maybe stuff.
And I used to call it, put it all in the closet and save it for later. Right. And I feel like we’re ready to open up the closet and start digging into some of our stuff. So we can really feel deeply, live our life deeply, do all that stuff. So that’s where I’d love to start with you, especially you, as I was like going, I have no idea how old you are.
Are you 40 yet? I think from all your life experience, but you don’t look it. [00:06:00] So you at 43 can dive into this, but that’s where I’d really like to start because you, you addressed kind of some new ways you were looking at things, some new techniques and got into trauma in Sacred Valley. So I’m just going to kind of throw that ball over to you and see where it goes.
Gabby Bernstein: Yeah. Well, it was when I was 36, actually, that I had a dream where I remembered trauma from my childhood. And while I wasn’t yet 40. I was pushing 40 at the time, and I remember the moment when I asked my therapist, why did I remember this now? And she said, because you were safe enough to remember. So when we get to our 40s, We may have established some semblance of safety in our life, whether we’ve done a little bit of personal growth work, whether we’ve had some therapeutic support, maybe 12 step support, maybe we’ve had some couples therapy, or we’ve just done a little bit of personal growth.
And so in that place of having four decades [00:07:00] behind us, we may have an opening. With a little bit of a safer baseline or a little bit more stability to start to take a closer look at what’s like you said, behind the door or in the closet. And it’s funny that you use the language in the closet because what we have truly that we’ve been running from for so long, that in our forties, we have an opportunity to face really at any point in our life, we have an opportunity to face, but I think it is when 40 year olds women or 40 and beyond.
We have a wisdom that allows us to go deeper. I do believe that. And I felt that for myself. And so what’s in the closet? In the closet are a lot of young parts of who we are. A lot of experiences from our childhood that we have exiled and shut down and shunned. And there’s a lot of feelings that have been managing those exiles and parts of us managing those moments of trauma from our history.
And so, [00:08:00] if we, in our 40s and beyond, become brave enough to wonder what’s inside that closet. And we become brave enough to wonder what lives beneath our suffering and have the courage to do whatever it takes to retrieve those younger parts of us and really heal, then we can really truly start living.
And while I look back and I’m like, Oh wow, like my hair was so thick in my thirties or like, you know, my, my, my, my skin was so, you know, I had a six pack or whatever. All that was great, but I would not trade that in for the world. I am so much more grounded, resourced, wise, adult, connected in my 40s.
JJ Virgin: And just wait.
Just get better and better and better and better. And, and honestly, you know, like in your 20s and 30s, you’re like, this is really, you think that this is the best time. You look your best, you feel your best. Like you’ve got. All these opportunities ahead of you, [00:09:00] et cetera. And something happened at 50. I went, wow, this is best.
Yeah. And then as I was heading into sixties and I’m also really fortunate that I have some amazing women who’ve gone ahead. Like I have some very close friends who are in their seventies. And I look at them and they are who I aspire to be. Like, I think that one of the things that we don’t have enough of in our world, our great elder role models, it’s like, we have such an ageist thing going on, but there’s this thing that happened in the fifties and sixties has been so incredible.
But, you know, the big question would be, cause I look at this very similar to business, you know, business, they say, well, what got you here won’t get you there and you have to reevaluate your team and all these things. And I feel like it’s the same in how we went through our 20s and 30s, kind of ignoring some of this stuff and just racing through life and then all of a sudden you’re ready to start looking at some of these things because really to feel deeply, live [00:10:00] big, go through your purpose, everything else, you have to address what’s in the closet.
But how do you even know what’s in the closet? Yeah.
Gabby Bernstein: Here’s what you can know right here, right now. We all got some stuff in the closet. You might not know what’s in the closet, and nor would I advise you to go open the door. What I would advise you to do is start to look at the ways you’ve been managing those deeper feelings.
So we have these historical experiences and wounds from our childhood, times in our life when we were traumatized or not cared for, or we had a detachment breach, or an alcoholic parent, or an experience of feeling inadequate, or something that was not tended to or, or processed. And so we built up a lot of protection mechanisms to push down Those really terrifying feelings.
And so you have the first step to become aware of those protection mechanisms. So maybe you do it through overworking, or maybe you do it through overeating, or maybe you’re managing your big feelings by being rageful or controlling. Maybe you’re [00:11:00] managing your big feelings with even more extreme behaviors like alcohol abuse or drug addiction.
And so we build up all these different forms of managing. And so I think a first step, and I’m actually writing about this right now in my 10th book, I’m writing about what is known as internal family systems therapy, which you heard me talk about in Machu Picchu, and the book is called Self Help. And it’s really teaching you to start to look at these forms of protection, the ways that you might have been managing your life for so long, and I can’t imagine a better time than in your forties and, and beyond to just take a closer look at the ways that you’ve been.
Managing everything to stay safe. And so right here, right now, you can just check in with your life and you could look at what are three things that I do most of the time to try to, you know, numb out big feelings or push past or manage my life to feel okay. Do you know what those three things are?
JJ Virgin: You know, Joe [00:12:00] Polish, right?
So I remember Joe Polish gave me this huge lecture about it. And it was funny. I was just mentioning this to you before we started recording, you know, I know what my default always has been and always, you know, it won’t continue. I’m actually in the space right now, like this has got to shift, but one of my big ones is always work.
Overworking is definitely like the place I will go whenever I’m upset. The other one. Is running. And one of the interesting things when I, you know, met Tim, first time I’ve ever really been in love in my life, like he is my perfect guy for me. However, I had to really deal with my self talk when I met him, because like at the hint that there might be a problem, I was like, I’m going to run.
I’m gonna run, you know, so those are the two that come up for me that are just like running away, like running, ditching. I think I’m a, an adopted kid. And one of the things [00:13:00] that when you’re adopted, you’re always, and I’ve read about this from this really amazing book called Primal Wound, but it’s like, you always feel like you could get dumped again.
And so, you know, let’s just dump first. So I was always like, I can’t rely on anybody but myself. I’ve got to do this myself, like all of that mantra stuff. Right. You know, and I’ll just ditch first.
Gabby Bernstein: You know, it’s really profound what you just said, because were you a baby when you were adopted?
JJ Virgin: Yep. Six weeks back then, this is crazy what they did.
They were closed adoptions where they matched you with the other parents so that you would all look alike. For six weeks, they had a cooling off period. So instead of giving you straight to your mom, because to me, your real mom is the person who had to deal with you in adolescence. They should get that badge of honor.
They didn’t. They put you into a foster system for six weeks. That’s horrible. Like what? It’s so ridiculous.
Gabby Bernstein: So, you know, it’s so interesting about that. First of all, I just want to extend a lot of compassion to you because those first six weeks are the most important bonding periods. [00:14:00] And so if you didn’t have any form of bonding.
JJ Virgin: And who knows what it was because maybe I had huge bonding and then it was taken away. Maybe I had no bonding. I, you know, I know my birth mom got to see me and then they took me away immediately. Like she basically saw me and I was gone.
Gabby Bernstein: This is really big because I think so many folks think like, Oh, you know, I was a baby.
Like, I don’t remember that. Oh no. Like your body remembers, your nervous system remembers. It’s just because you were an infant, that doesn’t mean there’s not an imprinted neural pathway, an imprinted memory of that kind of being passed around and not having that form of connection. So of course you’d have a protection mechanism of running, of course.
And so I appreciate your vulnerability and your honesty because I think a lot of people may not have had the level of self reflection that you’ve had in your life. But they do know and are aware of circumstances in their [00:15:00] childhood that may not have been as great as they could be. And so as we start to look at that, we can recognize, oh, okay, well, I’ve been working really hard to push down those big feelings.
And so right now, as I look at you, I have a lot of similar protection mechanisms as you, like I’ve really helped them become a lot less extreme. But formerly it was like work addiction and it was formerly, you know, I never was a runner, but. I would, you know, have other forms of saying, if nobody else does it, I have to, that kind of story, that still lingers for me now.
And so we have these different ways that we live and we often think that that’s a bad thing, or I’m a bad person, or I’m so hung up, or I’ve got to work on this. But what if we just flipped the switch for a second and just looked at it and said, of course I would act like that. Because look at what happened, right?
Like, seeing ourselves through that lens of compassion, like, This is the best I could do to survive. This has been the best I could do to survive. And to see those protection mechanisms as a part of who we are and [00:16:00] really have respect for it, right? But we do not want it to go on in that extreme way, but to start off baseline with some respect for it.
JJ Virgin: So not harshly judging yourself, having compassion and care, and then knowing that you want to move past it. So what’s the process?
Gabby Bernstein: Well, it’s not moving past it. It’s befriending it. Because The more we try to move past, you know, these extreme patterns of anxiety or addiction or running or all the things that we’ve talked about here, they’re called protector parts.
They’re managers managing our life or firefighters putting out the fires with addiction or workaholism or whatever. We live in these ways and these patterns and these behaviors and these patterns are parts of who we are. And so instead of trying to push past them, Or get rid of them. The work that I’m so proud of in my own life and in the work that I’m teaching now is IFS, is to befriend them, to be curious [00:17:00] about them, to have a open heart towards them, and we can’t just.
Flip that switch. But we can start to open up our mind and our patterns and our nervous system to start to see these parts of ourselves through a different lens. And what’s really powerful is that when we start to become curious and start to check in with this inner world of managers inside of us, we start to open up to moments, even glimmers.
of relief or a moment of calm or a moment of compassion. Like I felt so much compassion for your runner part just now because I was like, of course she would be running. This is such a core experience from her when she was six weeks old. And so if we start to experience that level of compassion for ourselves, these glimmers of curiosity and connection and compassion start to come through.
And so. The work is to become first and [00:18:00] foremost aware and conscious of the fact that these behaviors that have been running our lives are not poor behaviors. They’re not bad. We’re not bad. They’re parts of us that have been managing our big feelings that we haven’t been able to face.
JJ Virgin: That’s the first step.
And the big behaviors, like I listed mine, but what are some of the classic ones just so people can start to think about, is this something?
Gabby Bernstein: People pleasing, codependency, playing small, definitely workaholism or, you know, dissociation, numbing out. But there’s two styles of protectors, as they say in IFS. And there’s one, the managers, that are with us on a day to day basis, right, so your managers might be working on a day to day basis, right, but when the manager, when that working part isn’t working anymore, and something really extreme happens to you, and you feel super duper triggered, you’re gonna go to a firefighter, and my guess is maybe one of your firefighters is the runner, like, get the eff out, put out the fire, right?
And so for [00:19:00] me, the managers were controlling and if I don’t do it, nobody else will and just, you know, super shaming and blaming of myself. And my firefighters was, were cocaine addict and workaholic and alcoholic and love addict and lots of extreme, extreme behaviors. And so the more I’ve become curious about these different parts of who I am, the more I’ve been able to let self in.
And so self is this undamaged. Resourced, creative, confident, courageous, compassionate truth of who we are. It’s the part of us that is there when we’re standing on the cliff in Machu Picchu and our heart just opens wide, right? Or the part of you when you’re after a long physical run, right, or exercise, where you might just feel expansive and intuitive.
Or when we hold our baby for the first time and just, like, time stops. [00:20:00] That’s self energy, and we all have it inside of us, but it’s been shut down, and we’ve been managing, managing, managing over it. And so the work I’m writing about in my new book, Self Help, is to check in with your inner system, to check in with the parts of you, to become curious about those parts of you.
And then to extend some connection and compassion to them and ask them what they need. And this inner inquiry that I’m literally six chapters into is the key to my greatest relief in life and I can testify to it.
JJ Virgin: Oh, go into that. I’d love to hear that because it strikes me in listening to this, Gabby, that We’ve got this beautiful, like you say, self that basically is so covered up and hidden from our controllers, our managers, that we can’t access it.
You just drop that little one of this relief. Walk us through that. I’d love to hear it.
Gabby Bernstein: I wrote about my journey to [00:21:00] relief in my book, Happy Days, which is my latest book in print. And Happy Days is the guided path from trauma to profound freedom and inner peace. And it tells the story of this young addict girl who became a motivational speaker and only realized in her late 30s that she had had sexual abuse from her childhood and it came to her in a dream and that begins the journey of trauma recovery.
And in the book, I share very vulnerably and openly about all the therapeutic processes that I used to get to the place of profound freedom and inner peace, because there’s no way I would have put my face on that cover with that subtitle if it wasn’t real. And the greatest way, and I wrote an entire chapter about it, was through this method called internal family systems therapy, which I’d been using in my own therapy, befriended the founder, got trained in the model.
And now, apply it on a moment to moment basis to myself. And I wrote a whole chapter about it, and I’m not sure if this has ever happened to you, but oftentimes chapters of my books become books. Judgment Detox was a [00:22:00] chapter in The Universe Has Your Back, and that became a book. So this IFS chapter is now becoming a book.
But the thing about internal family systems therapy is that oftentimes, Really, truly, people don’t have access to it unless they’re in therapy, unless they’re in treatment. And what about the rest of the effing world, right? What about the rest of the people who, one, don’t know that they need treatment, or don’t want it, or don’t have the money for it, or, you know, genuinely will never get in the door?
We don’t want to leave them out. And so I have done what I do best, which is I’ve become a translator and a demystifier of this model that could be sometimes pretty heady and lofty, but I’ve boiled it down and simplified it so that it can be something that people can really access in the moment to moment scenarios.
So this book isn’t out until, you know, December 24, but I’m workshopping it everywhere I go because I’m writing about it. And so what is it? What is the secret sauce here? It’s learning how to relate to your inner parts, the managers, the [00:23:00] firefighters. The extreme parts of you, learning how to become curious about them, getting into a regular practice checking in with them.
And so I’ve truncated the model a little bit with this check in process where you first check in, turn inward, and check in with, you notice yourself in that place of overworking jj, right? And instead of getting to the computer, you check in, you choose to check in, and choice is the operative word because you have a choice in those moments.
You can choose to turn inward or you can choose to pick up the, you know, drug of choice in that moment, which is the work. And so as you start to accept that choice and you check in, that’s the first step. And then the second step is to become curious about how that’s affecting you inside and thoughts, beliefs, stories, feelings, sensations that are up around that workaholic part, right?
So where do I feel it in my body? What is it saying to me? How old is it? How long has it been around? Is it a gender? Does it have a gender? What does it want me [00:24:00] to know? And then the third step is to extend some connected compassion to that part of you. And we do that by asking the part of you, what do you need?
What do you need right now? And noticing after that, if you see any of these qualities come up, do you notice even a sense of compassion? Or do you notice a sense of calmness? Or connection? Or more curiosity? Or connectedness? Or creativity? And starting to look for these C qualities, because those C qualities are self.
They’re the God within us, the love within us, the resourced, undamaged, internal parent inside of us. And so if you start to notice any of those C qualities, you can know that there’s some self energy coming in. And at first you might have nothing, right? First you might just be like, eff this, I don’t want to look at the parts of me, I don’t know what the hell she’s talking about, this is too crazy.
But the more you do it, and the more you, really, I’m so glad I’m writing a 70, 000 word book about it because it is one of those things that does [00:25:00] take a minute to wrap your head around before you can even experience it. And so I want to take my readers on that journey. Maybe they read the book all the way through first.
And then come back and apply the method, right? But when applied, this inner inquiry and connection to these young parts of us, it’s like a family of little children inside of us. When applied. What happens is, is when we have the courage and the bravery to turn inward, and we do it through the lens of curiosity and compassion, then more self can come through, more resource energy can come through.
JJ Virgin: And what I’m hearing is, this isn’t going and rehashing traumas and trying to figure out like the things that happened. It’s really looking at behaviors and going, huh. As you were talking about this, Gabby, I remember I must’ve been, gosh, I think I was in like sixth grade and we went on our annual family vacation, maybe it was seventh grade, and on our annual family vacation for two weeks, I [00:26:00] brought, cause we were driving, I brought my tap shoes, a record player, my sewing machine.
Like I brought all of these things to accomplish in a list of what all I needed to get done while I was there. And I remember my mom sitting down and crying, saying, can’t you just relax and have fun? I go, this is fun. You know, it’s just like, it is fun. And what I’m really hearing is like, you don’t have to go identify the thing that might’ve been the cause.
You just have to identify that reoccurring behavior. And look at it and look at, you know, for me again, like it got me to a definite certain place and then it stuck me there.
Gabby Bernstein: You know, I think. The level at which I’m sharing this information is a step one level, right? It’s like, become curious about how you’ve been protecting yourself.
And if you’re really moved by it, the next step would be go do some IFS therapy to take a closer look, an [00:27:00] even closer look, at the exiled parts, right? The six week old baby or the traumatized little girl, to go deeper. Now, if you never went deeper, would you have relief from just working with these protection mechanisms?
Yes. Yes. So, the answer is, this work that we’re talking about here is not about dealing with the exiled parts. That’s really for therapy. Okay? This is about having respect for that part of you that’s been a workaholic your whole life and recognizing that there’s no bad parts. That part has just been in an extreme role working her effing ass off to keep you safe.
She’s done a lot of good along the way. She’s done a lot of good along the way. And so while these parts of us might seem extreme in their behavior and may be really burdening us because they’re taking us out or making us exhausted or physically exhausting us or making us sick, they also have a lot of great qualities.
And this part of you [00:28:00] that’s been a workaholic has written tons of books, has helped a load of people. And so you do not want to shut her down. And I’m sorry that I’m gendering that part of you because maybe it’s not a female, you know, but you don’t want to shut it down. You want to help it relax so that it can do its great work in a less extreme way.
JJ Virgin: You know, I’d love to share too, because this is a health show and usually we do health topics. And of course, as we know, it’s all connected, but you have a story that I thought would be really interesting too. It’s kind of switching gears a little bit, but I’d love to. Also go through that story of you where you had the GI issues and what happened with that.
Cause I think it’s just, it’s so fascinating, just another way for people to understand how all of these things can show up because quite often we don’t connect those dots.
Gabby Bernstein: In my book, Happy Days, I write about the psychosomatic effects of trauma because we all [00:29:00] have trauma, whether it’s trauma with a big T or trauma with a small T.
And so our nervous system is constantly reacting to those triggers of the initial core wound. And so for me, I lived in a chronic state of fight or flight. I was constantly trying to really manage every single thing around me to stay safe. And so as you can imagine, that would lead to an extreme anxiety disorder and undiagnosed PTSD.
And so I was constantly living in that fight or flight response. And so I separated for decades with extreme gastrointestinal issues. From ulcers to gastritis to, I mean, like six ulcers at one time, to really life threatening gastritis, to SIBO, to candida, to constant issues. I was so underweight because I couldn’t keep anything solid there.
I mean, not that it wasn’t staying there, but I just didn’t want to eat because I was getting bloated all the time, or sick. And, I just was constantly trying to manage, manage, manage with like this [00:30:00] latest supplement or this naturopath or whatever. And it wasn’t until I started to really address the trauma that it literally went away.
It’s gone. In fact, I eat things now that I never was able to eat before. I’m relaxed and my nervous system was able to settle and every cell in my body could send energy to my digestive system and my viscera could just do what it’s meant to do and not be in such an extreme state. And so in the book I write a lot about the work of Dr.
John Sarno, and this is in Happy Days, I write a lot about how we have these psychosomatic effects of our physical body and so the pain, the back pain, the neck pain, the gastro issues, the skin conditions, the fibromyalgia, these are psychosomatic conditions that are, of course, I’m not a doctor, so I don’t in any way recommend not addressing your physical symptoms because they’re real [00:31:00] and they’re happening.
When we get to the core wounds that live beneath them, true healing can occur. And that was the case for me. Big time.
JJ Virgin: I just think it’s such an important thing to point out because especially like when I think about GI issues, I’ll tell you a funny story. Like GI issues, weight is such a big one. And I’m sure you’ve seen stories of people who have struggled with what I call weight loss resistance for years and have addressed this and then it’s just a non issue for them.
That’s right. Right? You know, and it was interesting. Said to my husband two days ago, I go, gosh, I had a little procedure done and it resulted in all these weird little milia. And then all of a sudden I was getting like serious cystic bumps on my face. And I go, what the heck is going on? And I figured it was from the procedure.
He goes, honey, you are under like one of the highest degrees of stress I’ve ever seen you under right now. I’m like, oh, gee, I was like trying to point the finger over there. And I’m like, oh yeah, you’re [00:32:00] right. But we tend to look, I just must need a better topical.
Gabby Bernstein: So our physical conditions, JJ, are also protector parts, and this is actually the work of Dr.
John Sarno. He wrote the book, How to Heal Back Pain, and the thesis is that instead of facing the core wound, our body will literally become a protector and show us these extreme, you know, skin issues or skin conditions or whatever to focus our attention. and redirect our focus and our brain off of what could really be the problem, you know, the terrifying fear from our childhood, and focus on the physical condition.
And so this is a real thing that happens on a day to day basis with all people. You know, what I really want to point out here is that we can do all the exercise, we can do all the food, we can do all the supplements, Yes, yes, yes, hell yes. But if we do all that, without the [00:33:00] deep dive inward, we will consistently stay the hamster in the wheel.
Maybe our abs will be a bit better, but we will be a hamster in a wheel, consistently chasing some semblance of safety inside.
JJ Virgin: And this is why when I look at overall health, and this has been a big shift for me, like 10 years ago, I would have like not looked at this, right? I would have given it lip service, but I didn’t get it at a cellular level of where I look at all of this and I go, all right, what is true health for you?
And yes, diets in there and, and exercises in there, of course. But the other part in there, and I feel like this is the mission critical that because it’s not as tangible, I can’t get on a scale and go, Oh, how much body fat and how much muscle mass do I have? I can’t, you know, track my calories and see what my macros are.
This is where I see the issue, the nervous system. Like when you want to be truly healthy. If your nervous system isn’t working well, you’re going to have problems with all the rest of it. [00:34:00] Nothing is working. And I literally
Gabby Bernstein: Hey, you know what? You can look at your inflammatory markers.
JJ Virgin: So it’s interesting because I love to get into that because that was my big takeaway a couple of years ago.
I go, Oh, I need to think of my nervous system like I think of like my skeletal system and where I take my skeletal system to gym, I need to do the same for my nervous system. Like, and that has to be my key focus is my nervous system. Because that has been my issue is like, gosh, okay, there’s HRV, but like, I can’t make any sense of that HRV.
Things that seem like it would help it goes down, things that should not help it goes up. I’m like, I got nothing there. But you know, how would someone really be able to go, is my nervous system awry? How can I tell if it’s getting better?
Gabby Bernstein: I would say most people’s nervous systems are awry and you know it is when you have Physical pain, gut issues, anxiety, sleep conditions, weight gain, chronic tension, high blood pressure, just really any human condition.
[00:35:00] That’s a good sign that you’re off balance and out of alignment with harmony inside. And so, you know, a lot of people come to me and they’ll be like, I want a quick fix. You know, Gabby, I want to like five steps to manifest or, you know, three ways to get back into a state of peace. And I have all of it.
I’ve written my books on it. But the real answer is to have the courage to do the deeper work. And I know that’s not the answer. That’s not the motivational talk that everyone’s going to want from me, but it’s the truth. It’s having the courage to say, I see there’s something I’m running from. I’m going to look at it.
Maybe I’m not going to look at what I’m running from, but I’m going to just take a look at how I’m running and I’m going to become curious about it. And I’m going to make a constant connection to it daily because. It’s now that I’m writing this book, I can see, I just see everybody in their parts. All I do is see parts and I get on these podcasts and I’m like with all kinds of people, like wanting to do the math.
And I look at sometimes and I get myself into these squirrely situations because people can become so blended with these parts of themselves that they believe they are that [00:36:00] part. They don’t know that there’s any way out of it. They have no personal vision of it. And then in fact, what that does is creates more resistance.
The more blended you are with the part. And so sometimes the simplest path is just to check in with your body. is to just have a somatic check in. So, you notice, okay, I’m having all these symptoms, or I’m in the middle of this reaction, or I’m picking up the drink, or whatever. Take a beat, and just focus your attention inward.
And notice what you notice. Notice your breath. Notice any physical pain or sensations in your body. Notice if you’re tight or stuck anywhere. Notice if there’s like a color or a shape that comes to your mind. And then take it a little further and just notice, are there any thoughts that I need to tend to or any beliefs that are repeating or memories or images that I need to just address?
And that inner inquiry is a first step, a big first step, because like you [00:37:00] said, you know, the first thing we want to do is say, what outside could have caused this, right? Or what outside of me can fix this? So should I go get that cream or should I go get that pill or is this because I ate that thing?
It’s because you’re running from some impermissible feelings that are too freaking scary to face and you’ve been running your lifetime and it’s scary to even face the fact that you’ve been running. And so even if just getting into the habit of not picking up that pill or that cream or the doctor’s number, and instead just turning in and checking in with your somatic experience, checking in with your thoughts, your energy, your physical sensations, that’s a big step forward.
JJ Virgin: So I’ve got one more question because you just threw it out there and I was like impermissible, a word we never hear used.
Gabby Bernstein: Yeah, I mean, it’s trauma. It’s trauma. The experiences in our life that created so much fear and feelings of inadequacy and feelings of being unlovable and not good enough. And those [00:38:00] feelings are way too terrifying to face.
They’re young. They’ve been there most of our life, if not all of our life. And they’re really scary. And so they’ve become impermissible. We do not give ourselves permission to go there. Because if we do, we actually think we’ll die. So that first step is not going there. It’s not ripping off the band aid and opening the closet door.
No way. Don’t do that.
JJ Virgin: Well, it sounds like you might never need to actually open the closet door.
Gabby Bernstein: I’m conflicted on that because you could have a lot of great relief just focusing on these protection mechanisms, the protectors. But I do believe that there’s some young exiled children inside of us that need to be retrieved and they need to be reminded that they can be safe with us.
They can be safe with self, the energy inside of us, and that self energy inside of us can heal them, can help them.
JJ Virgin: And the way I hear all this as an exercise physiologist, I’m going to take it like for me, it was so helpful to start to look [00:39:00] at the nervous system and taking the nervous system to the gym, just like I would my skeletal system.
Sure. And I look at that and go, you know, I would never start with someone who’s been sedentary for decades and go, all right, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to go do some power lifting. That’s right. And then we’re going to do some HIIT training. That’s right. And, you know, I would never, ever, ever, ever do it.
I would start with some gentle movement just to get their body woken up again and go, here’s what it feels like. And that’s what I’m really hearing here is like, you know, you do not go running into the closet, open it, I’ll drag it all out and throw it all over the floor.
Gabby Bernstein: No, no. Cause that’ll just send you off into extreme firefighters, right?
It’ll send you to the drink, it’ll send you to the drug, it’ll send you to the whatever addiction you need to just stay safe. And so I’m going to quote you in the book, JJ, that was such a great metaphor, because we’re not going to go right to power training. No way. We have to assess where we are and see what feels safe and what we’re willing to face [00:40:00] into.
And yeah. Even if it’s just becoming curious about how we feel inside. That’s huge. It’s huge.
JJ Virgin: Yeah. I have a mentor and this just reminds me of it. She, she always talks about just peeling the onion. You just peel the onion and peel the onion and that’s what it feels like. And every layer just gives you another little bit more compassion and closer to your true self.
You didn’t just cut the onion in half and cry, you know, it’s just, you’re just feeling it, which feels so much better and doable. So for someone listening right now, with all the books and all the things that you put out, my gosh, and we’ll put all of it in the show notes, you have so many resources, what would be a good first step?
Gabby Bernstein: You know, a great first step right now is something that I am so thrilled is out in the world. And it’s the Gabby coaching app. So you know, for years, JJ, people have been saying to me, oh, Gabby, can you do private coaching? And I would just say, no, I mean, I’m not able to. And I wanted to serve so many [00:41:00] souls.
That’s my primary intention in life is to serve souls. And so I knew that there were, that it was time for me to take my body of work and really make it something that was going to be accessible to the masses and affordable and easy to access. So I created the Gabby coaching app. So every week, every Sunday you get weekly coaching from me, meditation, workshopping, journaling, some affirmation.
Oh, this is fabulous. It’s so good. So yeah, you can listen to an audible affirmation every day from me. You have hundreds of meditations. You have hundreds of workshops and lectures, like old lectures and workshops. You have the get Gabby section, which is like having me on speed dial. If you’re feeling anxious, you can just like press a button and I’m there.
I’m like, I hear you. I’m with you. And I know how scary this is in this moment. And I’m just speaking to you about these experiences that you might be having in real time, quarterly challenges, everything. So all of my greatest principles and methods in one place.
JJ Virgin: Okay. So I love this [00:42:00] so much. I can’t even stand it.
And the reason I love it so much is because. This is really what someone needs. They don’t need the one coaching session. The one, I would say, go into the gym. One time is not going to change your life. It’s just going to get you sore. You know, you need the daily things.
Gabby Bernstein: Because I think about the app, actually, these fitness apps meet like married calm, you know, because you get the method of the person and the coaching and the encouragement, and you also get these archives of meditations and lectures and this beautiful access to choose your own adventure.
And so my goal and my intention is to help people create sustainable change and to feel supported and guided and feel like I’m with them because I am, I really am.
JJ Virgin: Yeah, it shows, you know, you can really tell if someone’s in their work and in their purpose and living it and you so much are and having been able to spend like, you know, Nice quality time with you.
I’ve seen it.
Gabby Bernstein: So fantastic. [00:43:00] Right back at you.
JJ Virgin: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for all of that. Again, I’m going to put all of this, the other interview, all the books, all the stuff I will put at, so everyone can get it. And I thank you just so much for. All of your just willing to go there is the best way to put it, you know, willing to bear your soul, willing to go through the pain, willing to share your self and all the parts with people so that they can also go, huh, you know, and basically give them permission to start doing the same.
It’s just. The dent you’re making in the universe is super profound.
Gabby Bernstein: Right back at you. Thank you for your bravery and your willingness to go there.
JJ Virgin: Be sure to join me next time for more tools, tips, and techniques you can incorporate into everyday life to ensure you look and feel great, and more importantly, that you’re built to last.
And check me out on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube. And my website, And [00:44:00] make sure to follow my podcast so you don’t miss a single episode at See you next time.

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