Quiet Connections Podcast Dr Suzanne Henwood

How to keep healthy boundaries through bullying, people pleasing and fight, flight, freeze – with Dr Suzanne Henwood, Stress & Anxiety Master Coach

Guest: Dr Suzanne Henwood
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Suzanne Henwood is a stress and anxiety coach; one of only 2 Master Trainers and Master Coaches in mBIT globally, and an NLP Trainer who works closely with ANLP (the Association of NLP) and is the International Ambassador for ANLP in New Zealand. With a PhD in professional development, she has worked in higher education and development for 25 years and has authored numerous books, book chapters and articles, with a particular interest in stress, communication, leadership and personal and professional development to improve and transform practice, supporting people to operate from a place of excellence.



Hayley Stanton: Hello and welcome to an incredibly insightful episode of the Quiet Connections Podcast – you’re going to learn so much from today’s guest. So join me, Hayley, and Dr Suzanne Henwood as we explore the topics of boundaries, bullying and self-regulating so that you can have those tough conversations when you need to. 

You’ll discover new perspectives on people pleasing and dumb compassion; feeling emotionally safe and flexing and maintaining boundaries. What’s more, throughout this episode, Suzanne offers some helpful ways to gently bring yourself out of the fight-flight-freeze state that we can experience when our boundaries are crossed, or we feel unsafe, or we’re experiencing social anxiety, and into a more balanced place where we can connect with integrity and uphold our boundaries when we need to. It’s an absolute joy to introduce you to Suzanne Henwood…

Welcome to Quiet Connections. It’s lovely to have you here. Thank you for joining us. 

Suzanne Henwood: Lovely to be here. 

Hayley Stanton: Would you like to start by telling us a little bit about you? 

Suzanne Henwood: Oh me, I’m going to start with family. Cause I often find myself in the front of the training rooms with a co trainer and I introduce myself in terms of role and function. And then they stand up and they say, oh, I’m married with two kids. And I think I forgot to mention that. So I am married. I’ve been married 32 years to a wonderful guy who is now a high school teacher. And I have two children who are kind of grown up chronologically, a 22 and an 18 year old, and I live in New Zealand in a little place just outside Auckland, up on the west coast coast in the middle of a rain forest. And I have a west coast surf beach about 20 minute drive away and a beautiful, quiet Harbor beach, about 10 minutes away. So any sort of water I want, I have it right on my doorstep. I’m a stress and anxiety coach mainly. That’s what I do. As well as training coaches, particularly, mBIT coaches, I’m a master trainer, but I do so much more than that work within bullying, self-esteem, deep belief issues. So I’ve got a bit of a wide toolkit. 

Hayley Stanton: Absolutely. So we’re going to talk about boundaries today and before we move on, you mentioned mBIT. So shall we just explain what that is? 

Suzanne Henwood: Yeah it is a beautiful set of tools really about how it is to be human. The fact that we have been brought up for many generations thinking we live our life in our head; it’s all about education, it’s all about science and knowing, and justification and story. And we’ve lost sight of a huge part of our intelligence that comes from heart and gut and at master coach level, also ANS and pelvic brains. So it’s about getting back into a deep connection with self that releases beautiful innate intelligence and wisdom from within the person themselves that they’ve probably been missing and not realizing they’re missing. 

Hayley Stanton: Yeah, that was so beautifully put, thank you. Yeah, I think we are brought up in this world that tells us we need to be able to justify everything and just feeling that something isn’t right, or feeling like we want to do something isn’t a good enough answer. So we do lose that connection and it’s really important to maintain that. So how does this then relate to boundaries? 

Suzanne Henwood: Well, if we look from an mBraining perspective, we’ve got several boundaries, so we’ve got our physical boundary of the skin and the skin is innervated largely by the autonomic nervous system. So we have a physical boundary to the world. You know, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, we are trying to keep ourselves safe. We’re putting restrictions on masks and breathing to create another boundary. So there is that whole boundary of our body where it ends physically and what we allow in and what we don’t allow in and working with the ANS is certainly an important part of that safety mechanism.

But there’s also a boundary that we use within a coaching context. That’s more about a boundary of self. Who am I? Who am I not? Who could I be? What prevents me and from an mBraining perspective, that’s gut-brain and that might sound a bit odd if people have never heard of that, they go, what do you mean my identity is in my gut brain? If we take it back to straight physiology and I come from a healthcare background, so I often go back to physiology, neurology, in fact, I’ve got a lovely new phrase. I’m in a neuroplasticist. So, going back to anatomy, if you think of what the gut does, you take food in and your gut decides whether or not to keep that food and for it to become part of you or for that food to be eliminated as waste products and not to become part of you. So “I am” and “I am not” sits deeply, deeply in the gut level and it largely unconscious at that level, but then a lot of our beliefs are unconscious too and stem from a very early age. So yeah, gut for me is a huge part of boundaries. 

Hayley Stanton: And I’m hearing an awful lot around safety. 

Suzanne Henwood: Safety. Absolutely. Self-preservation. If you perceive any threat whatsoever, your body will do all that it can to keep you safe. And sometimes that makes sense. And sometimes you do something and you think why on earth did I do that? But it was your body making those decisions to keep you safe without necessarily, you know, negotiating with your head brain about what your head thought might be the appropriate response, because it just needs to go for speed. 

Hayley Stanton: Yes. And I see this a lot with the clients that I work with, where they are struggling between their head, their heart, their gut; they want to create some boundaries with people, but they’re really feeling like they should be doing things for people or they’re feeling guilty and really wanting to help or rescue people. I think it’d be really great if we could dig into that and understand what’s getting in the way of having those healthy boundaries and eventually what steps we can take to start creating them. 

Suzanne Henwood: Yeah. So should we do a bit of a neuro geekiness in terms of looking at quite a high level theory, if you like, of some of those boundaries that you alluded to there. People pleasing is actually just a stress response; it’s our way of feeling safe or trying to be accepted. So the theory that I use is called polyvagal theory. I love the work of Debs Dana who translates it into a very beautiful, easy to use ladder. And there’s three steps on the ladder. The first one at the top is called ventral vagal. Life’s okay. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it’s okay. I’m happy enough. I’m safe enough. I can connect facially with somebody else. I can look them in the eye. I can smile. I can assess whether someone’s a risk, friend or foe, and that’s where we want to live. Most of our life. The reality is we don’t. We slide down that ladder and we get triggered again, any sign of a threat any sign of a risk and it doesn’t have to be real. It could be perceived. Loneliness is another massive one. And especially in the pandemic, I do feel for people who are in the house alone for all these months, not able to connect, there’s a real risk of health issues there. And so very easy for them to slide down the ladder into initially a stress response. So the middle bit of the ladder is your sympathetic response. And people will know that from fight and flight. That’s the common language with that. So if somebody triggers you, you might get up and argue your case. Hopefully not get into a fist fight, but you will fight verbally with somebody to have your voice heard or to put your point across. But some people don’t react like that. Some people go, oh, I’m, I’m not going to get into an argument with you. So I’m just going to walk away and they’ll walk out of a meeting at work or they’ll shut a door. We see teenagers doing this quite a lot. They will walk out and slam the door behind them. That’s flighting. If you keep triggering somebody when they’re already in that stress response. And there’s a continuum within that stress response, it’s not one step, there’s several steps, but if you keep triggering someone and they don’t have the ability to regulate that emotion to come back up, then they will drop into what’s called dorsal vagal. 

Now in the animal kingdom, think of a lizard, or a reptile. If they’re in real fear, they’ll just play dead. They’ll be a rock. Pretend they’re not there. Now we do a version of that as humans, we hide ourselves away, or we dissociate, we remove ourselves from our body completely. And it is just a protective mechanism.

Hayley Stanton: Yeah. I know this one. 

Suzanne Henwood: Well, and that’s a tough one to be in at the bottom. And counter-intuitively, if you think that you’ve gone to the bottom because of extreme threat or stress, the way out of it is actually to stress somebody which is wholly counterintuitive. The temptation is if you’re empathetic to meet someone at the bottom of their ladder, where they’re curled up in a heap, and put your arm around them and sit with them. And it’s okay to do that for a bit, but once you’ve got their trust and their rapport, your job really is to poke them a little bit and stress them in a safe way that will bring them back up to the sympathetic, where then they can be mobilized and take action to get themselves back up to the “I’m okay” place at the top. 

Hayley Stanton: So this is where we have to get moving and start gently stretching our comfort zones and putting ourselves in situations that cause a little bit of anxiety and then it gets easier and easier and easier. 

Suzanne Henwood: Yeah. But in a safe way. Because otherwise you’re just going to revert them into an even deeper hole. So doing it with somebody is a great way. So if you know someone in that place to say, Hey, we are going to go out. This is not an option. We’re going to go out. We’re going to go together. We’re not going to go far and we’re going to go somewhere that’s familiar, but we’re going to go out the house would be one example of a safe stressor. 

Hayley Stanton: Yeah, I think that’s really helpful, Suzanne. I think the key takeaway there is that we really have to get uncomfortable to move out of this state of freeze. And quite often that’s what we’re trying to avoid. So let’s move on into exploring what a boundary actually is shall we?

Suzanne Henwood: Yeah, that’s really interesting. Isn’t it? Because the minute you say boundary, anyone listening will have their own meaning of what a boundary is and it will be different probably for everybody. And there might be some commonality, like it’s a break between two entities or you might think a wall, you might think a window. And you can play with the metaphor of that. If you understand what somebody’s boundary is and what stops them, you can beautifully change the image. So often a brick wall is one that will come up. You know, there’s a big brick wall in front of me and you go, oh, that’s really interesting. So if you could just get a tiny little chisel and just move one brick, not permanently, you can always put it back in if you want to, but you could just look through, or you could put in a peep hole if it’s a door, you know, in terms of security, an eye hole. So you can play with people’s metaphors, but I think what is a boundary will be different for every person. And the key to working with it is to understand what their meaning of a boundary, where they’re holding it. 

Is it a heart boundary, for example, how many people do we know who have been hurt or let down, who wall off their hearts who go, it’s just too painful to feel. And so they will create a boundary subconsciously around their heart to protect themselves from the difficult feelings. But unfortunately that also walls off all the beautiful joy, peace, love, and they never meant to do that when they set the wall up, that was not their intention. And this is why sometimes. The reaction our body creates can be absolutely right in that moment, but then creates a pattern that becomes the problem that we end up dealing with in coaching. 

Hayley Stanton: Yeah, absolutely. And I see this walling off of the heart, in my experience of social anxiety, you know, we feel like we’re flawed and unlovable and we just expect to be rejected. And so our bodies feel that it’s safer to not let anyone in, even though we might be desperate to feel love and connection. It’s just fascinating how our bodies work to protect us. Let’s now talk about boundaries with other people, when someone else is behaving in a way that really doesn’t feel good to us, it feels like they’re crossing a boundary. What do we want to understand about this?

Suzanne Henwood: Well, I always start with self. If you, if you can understand what your body’s doing and this polyvagal theory and the three places on the ladder. If you can get yourself to a self regulated, grounded, beautiful, safe place, then you can have more understanding for the other person. So it’s certainly worth looking at why they might be responding the way they are, but coming from a beautiful regulated place yourself will change what you see in the other person. 

Hayley Stanton: Yeah. I find often the people who are crossing the boundaries are unregulated themselves 

Suzanne Henwood: Almost by default. If they’re someone who swears at you or shouts at you or stamps their feet at you, they’re not the top of the ladder. And therefore they’re in their own version of fighting or flighting or worse storming away from you. And I say worse because we have a saying in the UK about sending someone to Coventry, which comes out of a kind of school playground type mentality. But actually we see it as one of the most insidious forms of bullying in adulthood, where you deliberately disconnect from someone where you won’t even have the conversation. So what you’re doing to that person is forcing them into that deep dorsal vagal. You don’t even exist. You’re not even important enough to have a conversation with, you know, it’s really horrible form of bullying and the people doing it will justify as well, I just don’t want to speak to them, or I can’t be bothered or I’ve tried once or twice or whatever their story is that they’re running in their head. That form of bullying is the most psychologically damaging form of bullying that you can do. Because what you’re basically saying is you don’t exist. 

Hayley Stanton: Hmm, that just really struck a chord with me. You know, I’ve had this situation a number of years ago now where somebody had these ideas about me, who they thought I was, that just weren’t true. And they were so resistant to hearing from me and having a conversation. And they were like, no, I believe what I believe. And I’m not going to talk to you anymore. Blocked off all communication. And, you know, I was just reeling going well, you know, I want someone to understand who I am. I don’t want to be misunderstood in this way. And it did take me a long time to figure that out and actually be able to let that go. 

Suzanne Henwood: Yeah, that’s a deep identity boundary that’s been transgressed and your body will respond with the strongest safety response that it can. And so what we see in the bullying arena. People who have been treated like that may respond with a severe fight flight. So sometimes although they’re the target of the bullying, they might then get angry and shout, and then it almost justifies the person saying, “See? It’s not worth talking to you”, and you can’t see the enmeshment in the two systems, just both heading downhill really fast. And so, again, for me, understanding some of that has been really, really useful to know where I am. And then also to be able to have a little more compassion if someone’s behaving atrociously by either the fight flight, you know, the swearing at you, or whether I’m just going to cut you off. But if you add into that mobbing whereby it’s not only one person, because they then probably in a fight or flight response, talk to somebody else, they start sharing their hallucination story, and then you can get whole groups of people shutting somebody off. 

Hayley Stanton: Yeah. Yeah. And that, that was absolutely my experience. And actually it was family that was doing this and What happened was there was no conversation about the misunderstanding and the stories that was being made up made up about me. And yet I was expected to attend the family, get togethers like a good little girl. And it just felt to me, like I was going to be walking into a lion’s den. And in the end I had to be like, actually, no, what do I really need? My body is telling me to stay away. I will quite happily have a conversation one to one, but I’m not going to sit there and pretend like nothing’s happened. And that was a really hard boundary to set because it involved other people as well, and other people were upset and wanted me to just brush it under the carpet, that’s the way that they respond. 

Suzanne Henwood: That is a classic that can’t we just move on. Can’t we just pretend this hasn’t happened. Can’t you just, shake hands, forget it. And you go actually, no, because you have transgressed a boundary at identity level and there has been an autonomic response to that. So the only way to heal that is to allow it to come out of the body. Otherwise, all you’re doing is suppressing it and it will come back up at some later point. 

Hayley Stanton: Yes. Yeah. So you’re still left feeling unsafe, even though you’re packing it down and pretending like everything’s okay. 

Suzanne Henwood: Yeah. Yeah. And that whole psychological safety thing, you know, once that has happened, it’s very likely the person who’s the target doesn’t feel safe in that workplace. And so even turning up to a meeting can feel threatening. And I read a beautiful paper the other day about clients who might come to you in that state. I’ve used this word state, not to say they’re in a state as in wrong, but as an autonomic state, right. And for them a neutral face is threatening. But unless you’re in a full ventral vagal, smiling, safe, connected face as the coach that will still be perceived as threatening once they’re in that response. It was like that really kind of woke me up a bit to going, wow. Then I have to be really conscious and genuine because the last thing you want to do is be this pink, fluffy everything’s lovely. Come into my office and we can sort the whole world out with a little bit of positive thinking and unicorns and rainbows because they’d be out the door as well. Right. So is this balance of how do you get yourself in such a good self-regulated state that you can share that and co-regulate and share some of your good state with them to hold their hand, to be able to walk them back up the ladder?

Hayley Stanton: Yeah. Okay. There are a lot of people who are putting all the other people before them, when they’re feeling like they need to have boundaries in place, they’re not doing it because they’re afraid of upsetting people. So what, what do they need to know in order to start putting these boundaries in place?

Suzanne Henwood: Yeah, I think for me, it always starts with awareness. Always. If you’re not aware of something, you can’t work with it to change it. So being aware that that’s what you do, if you’re a people pleaser, it may have been long-standing. It may just be how you are and you may not even be able to imagine being anything else. But in fact, people pleasing is just another stress. It starts in childhood. And it will start because you feel like you need to do something or be a certain way to fit in or to be accepted. I kind of did it in a weird way as an adult academic I came through a health professional route before it was a degree qualification. So I had a diploma in my field of diagnostic radiography, and while there was some good intention of going on and studying part of it was about becoming belonging, being part of. And so I went and did a higher diploma and then we went degree based and I thought, well, I’ll go and do an MSC. And then when I had the MSC, I thought, well, if I do a PhD, then I’ll be credible and acceptable. And it’s like, the ladder was up against the wrong wall. But I wasn’t quite at the point where I was doing my own self-development journey at that point, I was trying to people please. Get qualifications to fit in to an academic department. And we do the same in so many different ways, whether it’s being nice to someone, whether it’s service around the house, doing the housework, picking up everything after your kids, whatever it is, it shows itself in so many ways. But yeah, that people pleasing, being aware that you’re doing that out of balance. Yes. We want to serve and contribute. But when you’re doing that to try to work on your identity in some way, it’s become a stress response. 

Hayley Stanton: Yeah. So how does boundaries and compassion fit together in your view?

Suzanne Henwood: Oh, okay. So compassion very heart-based. But we know that compassion is a highest expression of the heart can only be fully realized when all the other brains, highest expressions are also fully realized. 

Hayley Stanton: Yeah. And we’re talking about the highest competency of our brains here. 

Suzanne Henwood: So if we’re looking at identity based boundary, if you haven’t got your gut based identity at the best form of self, you’re not going to go to highest level of gut, which is courage. Therefore, you can’t be compassionate for yourself or others fully. Now it’s all on a continuum, but you’re effectively self-sabotaging by not having that boundary in place for your own protection and identity. 

Hayley Stanton: Oh, so the opposite of boundaries is self damage? 

Suzanne Henwood: The risk of self damage. Because if the boundary’s not in place, you risk it being transgressed. So you could argue the opposite is that to be highly self-compassionate you need strong boundaries. 

Hayley Stanton: Yes. Yeah. And the work of Brene brown has shown that the most compassionate people have the strongest boundaries 

Suzanne Henwood: yeah. And vulnerability. So sometimes we have to be vulnerable to move those boundaries or to go outside of those boundaries.

Hayley Stanton: And it can be such a challenge can’t it? So you mentioned that you had an experience at work. Can you tell us a bit more about what happened there and how you got through it? 

Suzanne Henwood: Yeah. Yeah. I wish I could give you a, Hey, I’m a professional coach and I sorted it out in two sessions. It wasn’t like that at all. It blindsided me. So I was basically head hunted to come to New Zealand and I was an associate professor in health. So working at a very senior level in an academic institution. And when I joined, it was a great place to work. And as in so many things that happen is there’s a change of boss. And with that, that boss often comes in and does a transformation and gets rid of all the people that were in and brings in other people that are of their style. And over a few years, there was a completely different culture running in this place. And initially I was quite favored within this new culture, not through any intent on my part, but I don’t think I saw everything that was going on because I happened to be in an okay place with the people. And I was working hard. I was probably working 60, 70 hours a week. There was some awful stuff going on around me and some real ethical stuff going on that I reported to the senior leadership saying, you need to be aware, which put me in no man’s land because senior leaders didn’t like hearing it. And the people on the other hand hated the fact that I had exposed it. So I found myself in a very isolated position, but carried on working. And these people left and took a whole load of coursework with them. It was very, very, very difficult position. And I saw this coming and thought we have to have something else to offer. So without being asked, really just in the background I was creating a new potential program and got it to a point where I thought it’s in draft enough and I took it to them. And I said, I realize the situation and I’ve come up with this and I think it’s a potential solution. It must’ve been around june or July time now we run the opposite academic years to the UK, so our start term is February. And they sat on it and they sat on it and they sat on it. And I thought, I know what’s going to happen. They’re going to come back to me in October or November and say, we want it for February. So I started recording my working hours. I started keeping a working log of what I was doing with my time and right enough in November, they came back and they said, we love it. Can you run it for February? I said, well kind off, but this is my working log for the last four months, I’m doing an average of 70 hours a week. For me to set this up and write it, basically, you’ve got to take some of this stuff off me. And there were three senior people in the room and they said, you’re a senior member of staff, we expect more of you. And I said, I’m already giving you more than double what you pay me for, I physically can’t do anymore. And that turned everything. So I went from being a favorite member of staff to being a troublemaker and isolated. So what they did was not only give the program I was writing to somebody else to write. They also took the program I had been running off me and gave it to somebody else. They moved my office so that I was in effectively a cupboard in a new corridor. I was left off email lists. And I genuinely just thought it was horrible, but hadn’t really realized what was going on. That it was a form of bullying, the isolation and exclusion, and not talking to people as a form of bullying. And I couldn’t quite get my response. I was not responding well. You know, initially I tried to have the conversations with them. I tried to make meetings with my boss and every time it got canceled, if I passed him in the corridor, he wouldn’t speak. And then somebody rang me and said, are you taking legal action? And I said, Hmm, why would I be doing that? And they said, because you’re being bullied, you’re being effectively pushed out the back door. And I said, oh really? They had overheard a conversation. The big, big boss told my boss to make my life so difficult that I left. And he was doing a pretty good job at doing that. Actually, it was pretty awful, but I’d moved my whole life to here for that job. So there’s another boundary for you. It’s not easy sometimes to just go, all right, then I’ll get another job. You know, I was the only associate professor in the country, in my field. I had a family to feed. My husband was a stay at home dad looking after my kids. There was so many boundaries being crossed. So I stayed and it became a long a long and difficult path, probably two, or maybe even into the third year where I did the job as best I could within the restrictions. I tried to tolerate the isolation and the being left out. I called it tunneling. I created my business in the background that I could then walk into when I was ready. It was interesting with all my skills as a coach, with all my skills, as a leadership coach, a culture coach consultant, I could not seem to influence the behaviors of the other people in any way, shape or form. So all I could work on was me and I went and sought coaching and counseling and therapy and everything I could to get myself out of that bottom of the ladder, because I was in the bottom of the ladder before I realized I was there. 

Hayley Stanton: Thank you for sharing that. It sounds so, so hard. And I guess it sounds like you knew that your boundaries were being crossed and you had a plan to move from there.

Suzanne Henwood: Yes. Yes. And you know, now that I know about polyvagal, I understand my autonomic spacing so much better. So I will be somebody that if you trigger me, I’ll initially try to fight my corner and if I’m triggered again, I’ll walk. Yeah. So understanding that’s my pattern, which is unconscious and automatic, sometimes I can see what I’m doing quicker and then make a choice. Is there something I need to walk away from, or actually is this my autonomic response trying to protect me? So if a client comes in with a work situation, really the work situation is only the tip of the iceberg. Where else have they had that boundary transgressed? 

Hayley Stanton: Often way back into childhood again, isn’t it? 

Suzanne Henwood: Yeah. And so then when it is poked, that will respond much quicker and much more forcefully to that because your body goes, I know what’s going on here and I know I’m under threat and I need to do something about it.

Hayley Stanton: So that’s how we can very quickly move straight into that freeze mode. 

Suzanne Henwood: Yeah. I have a beautiful client at the moment. He’s a CFO he’s in his late fifties and he was bullied at work and he came through a GP referral to me because of the stress and anxiety related to that. And when I taught him this and I talk about the ladder, cause that’s Deb’s wording, Deb Steiner who created the ladder or a staircase and it kind of gives you some control cause it’s like if I take a step down, I can take a step back up. And I was talking to him and he said, I haven’t got a staircase. And I went, oh, tell me what you’ve got. He said, I’ve got a fireman pole. And once I’m on that at the top, I dropped right to the bottom and there’s nothing I can do, like right the way at the bottom really quickly. And so we use that metaphor in that analogy for him. And now, yes, he’s still got the fireman pole, but he’s got this beautiful spiral staircase that he can then climb back up. And what we’re doing now is working on that sense of still standing in ventral vagal, but reaching out the hand as if to go down the fireman pole. So that’s his pause point. As soon as he feels himself heading for the pole, we’ve still got a moment to stop the reaction, but I thought it was such a lovely analogy. 

Hayley Stanton: Yeah. I really liked that. I was just waiting for where’s the stairs going to come in, 

Suzanne Henwood: they’re there and you can see they’re big and they’re long and they’re round and it’s hard work for him still when he does go down, it takes huge effort and hard work to go back up that staircase. It’s not just one or two rounds on a ladder for him because he’s been hurt many times. And now that route down is fast and quick and deep. 

Hayley Stanton: Yeah. And I mean, I had this experience about probably 13 years ago now where I worked in the NHS. And again, when we had a merger of different wards and there was this particular nurse that seemed to take an instant dislike to me. My immediate response was just to avoid, avoid, avoid, and it wasn’t until I was doing my NLP course years later that I looked back on that situation. I was like, oh, I really like perpetuated that by avoiding. And I left her far too much space to think about, you know, what is this girl doing? And she’s clearly not doing her job, even though I was really good at my job and responsible, she didn’t know that.

Suzanne Henwood: And it was just your body protecting you. Yeah. So it’s one of the frames I hold with. All my clients is nobody’s broken. Your body is beautifully adapted. And all it’s doing is protecting you. Now, whether or not that way of protecting is still working for you five years on 10 years on whatever, do we need to upgrade the software and to create a new pattern, which will take effort and discipline and persistence. But having said that, there’s some beautiful new techniques around that can make things happen pretty damn quick. So I don’t know if you’ve heard of Havening, which works with traumatic memories really was where it came from. It’s got wider use than that now. And if you know kind of a neuron connects to another neuron through its synapse. If that synapse can be disrupted the message, the reminder of, oh, this is taking me down the rabbit hole. If you can disrupt that message, that message can’t get through. And so the receiving neuron goes, well, I don’t know where that is. I’m not doing anything with it and it doesn’t pass it on. So you can disrupt that emotional pathway with simple Havening touch. I’ll give you a real, real quickie, right? So great for affirmations. Great for feeling good. So you can use it to unhook old emotions. You can also use it for resilience and moving forward in a positive way. Can you just take your hands and rub the Palm of your hands together? There’s a high proportion of pleasure, neural receptors in your hands and other places, but we’ll stick with the hands for now. And you, you don’t need to say it, but you can, if you like, create a beautiful affirmation for this week for you .And as you say it, just allowing your body to do what it does as you’re rubbing your hands together, what that’s doing is creating Delta waves in your head brain. It’s changing these AMPA receptors in the synapse. So it’s disrupting old ones and setting up new ones that are then making that pathway for your new affirmation, absolutely clear, easy your normal pathway and depending what your affirmation is, whether it’s a heart-based one or a gut-based one coming from an mBraining perspective. If you just, it’s a heart-based one, just take your hands to in front of your heart and say that heart-based affirmation, you know, I’m grateful for my life. I love working for myself, whatever your affirmation is at a heart level. If it’s a gut one, you drop it to in front your gut in terms of, you know, I can be strong. I can have courage. I am courage. I don’t know how long we’ve been doing that. Maybe two or three minutes, but what is happening in your body as you do that? What you’re feeling? 

Hayley Stanton: I’m feeling so relaxed. Just, yeah, just, just a real, like, releasing of stuff going on. 

Suzanne Henwood: Beautiful. So there’s, there’s about seven or eight different techniques with Havening, but even just doing that one, which isn’t really a full technique, but you feel the embodied shift. Yeah. I just use it all the time now, whenever I’m even doing coherent breathing with mBraining, I will do a little bit of self Havening or get my client to do that ,and it ramps it up and makes it even quicker. 

Hayley Stanton: That’s lovely. That’s a lovely little exercise for everyone to have a go at. There was a question about when people are taking responsibility for other people, their wellbeing or their emotions, and they really want to look after someone, how do they start shifting that sense of responsibility to be able to create the boundaries that they really need?

Suzanne Henwood: Yeah. So I said at the time it starts with awareness and then we went off down a tangent. So it does start with awareness and then them being aware. So let’s say I’m now aware that I’m a people pleaser. I think one of the places I might start. Kind of feeling into the, so what of that, because with a lot of these responses that we create, there will be some good as well as some disruptive. And what you don’t want to do is throw the baby out with the bath water. So what does it give you? What does it actually give you? Well, it gives me long-term connection with those people. It means that they come to me when they need help. Okay. So the relationship is important at value level. You don’t want to disrupt that. What do you need alongside of that? And are you getting your needs met? So where’s the balance of their needs and your needs. And probably it’s way down the line of meeting their needs and not yours. And then what can happen is we get resentful that we’re doing stuff they don’t appreciate, or I’m the one carrying all the can here and I’m doing everything and that’s not healthy either. So yeah, a conversation around values with yourself, what’s important to you and then at gut level, what do you need? And then when you’ve got that information we’re looking at, right? So that’s what they want and need. This is what I want a need. How do I do, not a compromise because compromise sometimes means neither get, but a negotiation so that I can still have what’s important to me, which is relationship and I can truly look after myself as well. 

Hayley Stanton: Yes. Because of course we need to be looking after ourselves first in order to be well enough to look after the people. 

Suzanne Henwood: Absolutely. 

Hayley Stanton: There’s a lovely little mBraining term called dumb compassion that I keep coming back to where we’re leading with the heart and forgetting, excluding our gut.

Suzanne Henwood: Yeah. And I think you know, parenting is a great example of where people do dumb compassion. If you do everything for your kids and you think you’re doing them a favor or spoiling them or treating them or whatever the word is you use, and they get to the point at 18, 19, and then moving out. Although apparently now the average is 31, but let’s suppose they still move out at an early age, and not able to live independently. They don’t know how to cook. They don’t know how to clean. They don’t know how to use the washing machine. They don’t know how to live in relationship where there’s give and take. And they become entitled, you know, will you just do it for me? So that for me is a version of dumb compassion where wise compassion would be to help them to gently learn all those skills that they might resist and they might not like you for, but you’ve got the bigger picture in your mind of where you want them to be able to be. 

Hayley Stanton: Okay. That’s really helpful. So thinking about that long term, what’s compassionate in the long term, rather than just the short term right now.

Suzanne Henwood: Yeah. You think of your toddler tantrums. But a toddler tantrum, it’s just that they’ve dropped down the ladder. There’s something that they’re feeling unsafe about. 

Hayley Stanton: So what do they actually need to climb the ladder instead of giving into them? How do we help them to manage their emotional state?

Suzanne Henwood: Yeah. And you know, it may be something as simple as connection. Yeah. 

Hayley Stanton: Cause you were talking about that face to face contact that eye contact and smiling, and that helps to regulate the child. 

Suzanne Henwood: Cause what do we do? She says, pulling up her iPad. We give the kid the iPad to watch. Or they’re on an iPad. I’m the parent on my phone. They’re looking for my attention and my attention’s here. We’re literally wired to connect. So if we haven’t got that co-regulation with another human being that in itself will take us down the ladder. That’s why cutting somebody off. It’s just a vicious attack basically. 

Hayley Stanton: Yeah. That makes sense. And wow, how easy it is to do that to a child. And then that sets their baseline for the future. And then they have to do this work to climb up the ladder by themselves. 

Suzanne Henwood: Yep. And we’ve got a whole generation of workers who probably have had that, who are now at work desperate because they want connection, but they don’t know how to do it. And then when they get the connection, they’re not able to calibrate is it safe or not? Back to boundaries. So they find themselves in difficulty and conflicts and bullying situations because they probably do trust somebody. And then that person will transgress a value or a boundary. They didn’t see it coming. One of the pieces of work Gary Namie has put out is from the workplace bullying university in America. And he describes your typical target of bullying, which is not what you think… popular, efficient, effective, nice person. Not who you think of as the target, is it? 

Hayley Stanton: No, absolutely not. So why would someone like that be a target for bullying? 

Suzanne Henwood: I think it’s more about in terms of the bully, not having a secure sense of self, that they see someone like that as a threat.

Hayley Stanton: Right. Okay. So they’ve gone down the kind of ladder and they’ll attack and they wantto bring other people down, that attitude. 

Suzanne Henwood: And I think it completely blows out the water that your target is someone who’s different or odd or troublemaker. That just doesn’t hold up in research. The majority of the targets are not bad at all. They’re actually really good at their job and really well-liked. 

Hayley Stanton: Wow. That’s the first time I’ve heard that. And that is so fascinating. If somebody is feeling like their boundaries are being crossed and they want to say something, but maybe they’re going into this kind of like freeze avoid, how should they first start to approach this. 

Suzanne Henwood: Yeah. Beautiful. So this is about wanting to, or needing to respond. Depending where you are on the ladder, if you’re in fight and flight mode, your response might not be the best response. Or the wisest response in the moment. If you’re at the bottom in the I’m not even here, you might not even find you can find your voice. You might not even be able to speak up. So the only place to respond from really is at the top of that ladder. So it’s about how do you get yourself back up that ladder relatively quickly in order that you can then have a proper conversation, conflict free, where you can respect each other and connect.

Now, you are assuming that you’ve gone back up the ladder and so have they. You might go back up the ladder. They might not be. And so it’s not a full proof ‘if you get yourself up there, everything’s going to be fine’ because you’re still dealing in a complex system with other people who might not be there, but you’re still better off being up there for yourself. Even if you’re talking to somebody who’s in fighting mode say, so some of the things we know, get you back up there. Self-regulate very quickly. One I’ve already talked about is Havening, really beautiful way of just settling your system really, really quickly breathing work another one, it’s what we use in mBraining in terms of, we use a regular breathing pattern even in and out breath. But if you are in a fight mode, you might actually want to do a couple of release breaths first. So you might want to do a couple of really long out-breath or a couple of hard breaths. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the haa breath. So you’re kind of almost getting rid of, you know, you breathe in and then you go HAR! And you kind of release that caught up tension that will then allow you to come back to balance breathing. 

Hayley Stanton: Oh, that’s brilliant. 

Suzanne Henwood: Yeah, that can be really powerful. Probably not one to do in a board meeting. There’s a school that I saw a video from a very poor area, lots of problem kids. I think it was a boys only school. Certainly the video I saw was only boys and they had real problems with aggression in the classroom and also what they called runners. So basically if somebody got so stressed, they do their flighting, but they’d go off school grounds and they’d have to go and try and find them because they were at risk and they taught them the Haa breath. And now the whole class does it. And they’ve not had any runners, more self-regulated and it’s a way of controlling that stress response kind of in the moment. It made me think of a hacker in New Zealand. So that, you know, it’s a way of controlled expression that the fight mode out of your body that will take you a step or two up the ladder so that you can then begin to do the ventral vagal, calm, balanced breathing, smile, and then you can have your voice and express what’s happened, but in a rational non-confrontational loving, compassionate way.

Hayley Stanton: Yeah. Yeah, that’s so good. This is what I did with the family. I didn’t reply. I took myself for a walk. I did some breathing. I connected with a counselor friend of mine, and then I came back with compassion for her perspective. And it still didn’t go to plan, but I felt like I had done the best that I could.

Suzanne Henwood: Yeah, that’s all we can ever do. Yeah. Well, I’ve, you know, I’ve had a situation recently where a group of people have disconnected from me. And so we tried to have some conversations and I said, in order to do this so that I feel safe, I need to know what we’re talking about. I need an agenda basically, that wasn’t provided. So I did everything that I could to be in that calm state having very clear boundaries. And they weren’t at that level. And they just said, well, cut off. They just literally cut off the phone and went, we’re not even talking. I’m like, well, okay. That, that sad. I’m desperately sad about it, but there was nothing more I could have done.

Hayley Stanton: Yeah. Yeah. Thank you for sharing that, Suzanne. I think that it’s really important to hear because, you know, we often feel like we should do something, even if it means bending and flexing to meet other people’s expectations of us and putting ourselves in a position where we feel unsafe emotionally or otherwise. But this conversation with you really feels like our listeners are getting that permission to set the boundaries that they need to, regardless of how other people will respond. And we’ve been talking a lot about where setting boundaries hasn’t gone so well, but there’s also a lot of times where practicing having those tough conversations has been really, really amazing. You know, I’m thinking of a certain situation where I sat down with a friend and a work colleague and, I started with Brene Brown’s line “the story that I’m making up”. It was just so brilliant cause she really met me where I was and we had this conversation that was full of curiosity and compassion and just love for each other. And we came away stronger than ever. So it can be really, really satisfying to have these conversations and tough conversations 

Suzanne Henwood: yeah. And it is tough conversations. Courageous conversations is another term. I like being prepared to have the courageous conversations and being aware that you need them then coming with a loving intention that is not, you know, you getting your way, but it’s actually about connecting, I think changes the whole thing. If both sides are coming from that place. But if you’ve got somebody coming from ego or power or stress or fight, then sometimes it can’t go so well. One of the things I love doing with teams is teaching them the language of the ladder so that they have another way of going, where are you right now on the ladder, help me understand. And you’ll give him permission to go to all of these places are completely normal. If you said to somebody you were in the dorsal vagal in the past, it might, there might be a bit of stigma to that. Oh, you’re not coping, you’re anxious. You’re whatever, you know, anxiety in the middle or withdrawal at the bottom. But if I have got permission within a team to talk about where I am and the fact that I don’t feel safe and they go, okay, I don’t personally understand that maybe, but I get what you’re saying, what do you need in order to feel safe? And I’ll make sure I provide that. Then we can walk up the ladder together. 

Hayley Stanton: That is so powerful. And so often we avoid talking about how we feel and we feel like we have to have this, you know, strong front. But it can really, really help to just say, this is how I’m feeling right now. 

Suzanne Henwood: Yeah. And that’s okay. It’s not a judgment. It’s not making big meaning out of it. That is how I’m feeling. And if someone ever says to you I’m not feeling safe and you just dismiss that, that’s not a connection that’s going to build, because what you’ve done is proved that they’re not safe. 

Hayley Stanton: Yeah, for sure. Is that something more that you would like to share around boundaries before we wrap up?

Suzanne Henwood: I think the fact that they’re dynamic, they need to be dynamic. They need to be agile and flexible. If we create such a rigid boundary around us, it can be restrictive. If we have no boundaries, that’s a real risk. So we want to create boundaries. You know, and some are stronger than others. Some are absolute in the line. This is the boundary and you don’t cross it. But for a lot of everyday work type related boundaries, it’s about having a boundary and being okay if maybe someone does push against it, recognizing that and going, oh, I can feel that that boundary is moved a bit and then reassessing it and deciding whether or not to push it back out. Or actually, yeah, life’s moved on. Life’s changed. I’m happy to move my boundary. So for me, the safety comes from the flexibility of them. 

Hayley Stanton: That’s nice. Yeah. And then permission to maintain those boundaries where you need to. 

Suzanne Henwood: Yeah. And change them because there’s life moves on. You know, who would have dreamed we’d be in a global pandemic. I imagine a lot of our boundaries have shifted big time. So yeah, flexibility. And yet having them. So it’s not about not having them. It’s about having them and being prepared to constantly reassess and work with them so that they serve you. They’re your boundaries. They’re not there for other people. They’re there for your protection. 

Hayley Stanton: Okay. And do you have any final tips for having that conversation around setting boundaries?

Suzanne Henwood: You know, because of the beautiful way mBIT works across all of the intelligence centers and boundaries can be heart or gut based, I now cannot imagine having coaching around boundaries that isn’t mBit based because if all I’m doing is thinking about them and setting them in my head and I’m just setting myself up for more and more stress. It’s not going to work 

Hayley Stanton: for sure. I totally agree with that. Doing my mBIT training was one of the most powerful, powerful things I’ve ever done. And yeah. Really helped me to find my voice. Can you just let us know where everyone can find you? 

Suzanne Henwood: Yeah. I’m on social media as Suzanne Henwood or ‘mBIT4Success’ on Twitter or ‘mBraining4Success’ is my Facebook page. My main website is mbraining4success.com. So yeah, go and stalk me. There’s all sorts of free stuff on those websites. There’s a free tool box, a free ebook. If you’re curious about mBraining there’s my YouTube channel, Suzanne Henwood has loads of guided meditations to help you just play with this stuff and explore it and see whether it’s something for you or not before committing to paying for a full-time coach. 

Hayley Stanton: Well, that’s beautiful. Thank you. And I would recommend following you because you do share an awful lot around boundaries 

Suzanne Henwood: they’ve been transgressed a few times so it’s something that I do talk to other people about. 

Hayley Stanton: Well, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been a real pleasure talking to you. 

Suzanne Henwood: Yeah, my absolute pleasure, Hayley. 

Hayley Stanton: Thanks for listening. If you’ve learnt something new today, please pass on Suzanne’s wisdom by sharing this episode. You can head over to QuietConnections.co.uk/blog for the show notes. Until next time, stay connected. 


Want to know a little more about mBraining? Read a post from our Quiet mBIT Coach here


  • Hayley Stanton

    Hi, I’m Hayley - the original quieteer. I, too, identify as a quiet person. I’m naturally a highly sensitive introvert and I love and appreciate my quiet strengths now, but I spent much of my life not feeling good enough and experiencing social anxiety. I missed so many opportunities because I was afraid of being judged harshly, criticised and rejected – and because I doubted that I had the ‘right’ personality to succeed. Quiet Connections exists in part because I had a fantastic coach who helped me to work through old patterns of keeping myself small and hidden so that I could show up and be seen to play my part in creating the more connected, curious and compassionate world that I dream of. Now, I’m passionate about helping quiet people discover their unique qualities, gifts, passions and experiences and explore how best to use these to express themselves more authentically and contribute to the world in a way that works with their quieter or more sensitive nature. Get to know me here.

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