Question & Answer: Emotional Trauma Stemming from Childhood

We are starting to do a series of blogs based on questions that have been sent in. The blogs will be created based on dialogue between Olivia and Kyle as he considers the questions.

If you have a question you want to be answered, please email us at

Why does it seem that most of our emotional trauma stems from childhood?

There are a number of reasons, the most significant being, brain development. For the first 8-9 years of life, we are in the theta state. This brainwave pattern is the same as a hypnagogic state, meaning, under hypnosis. As successive brainwave patterns develop, we start to think abstractly which allows us to armor ourselves a bit to incoming thoughts, beliefs, and ideas. However, in our early brain development, especially before age 7, it’s like the child is under hypnosis. Young children have no defense for anything that they see, hear, feel, or experience. There’s no conscious capacity for defending or protecting themselves. Everything in that state is truth. Everything a child sees, hears, understands, or experiences goes in as direct experience of the world. Relationship patterns, who they are in the world, their importance, their relationship to other people, their value, their worth, their beauty, and the foundation for how they see themselves is developed during this time.

If you think about it, to a 4-5-year-old, parents are like these huge living Gods that can dispense pain, pleasure, approval, and disapproval. They are the source of love and the source of anger. They can predict the future. They can tell, seemingly by magic, that you’ve eaten chocolate. You have a little bit on your nose, but you don’t know that, so it seems like magic.

Our parents seem to be all-powerful beings, so when something scary happens or we get hurt, as a protection mechanism, we store the pain and begin to create coping mechanisms so that the gods won’t be angry. That little child tries to adapt itself to be in a relationship with these much more powerful beings without the protection of knowledge or understanding. To a child, the family is its whole world and as such, the child is profoundly affected by it.

That’s why I say that at the Mountain Experience, we are deprogramming people from the cult of family. Adults have abstract gods but children have living all-powerful, all-seeing, all-knowing gods.

Most of us also had parents who weren’t fully developed adult human beings. What I mean by adult, in the context of Life at Altitude, means fully developed human beings that no longer need anyone else to fulfill them. They are just totally available to the child. Most of us had parents that were coming from their childlike patterns as well, still trying to fix and repair their childhood issues. There was no way for them not to pass on those same misunderstandings and misbeliefs.

None of this work is about damning or putting down your parents. I’ve never met a parent that wasn’t doing their best given what they had and what they knew. If we get into damning our parents then we have totally missed the point. In the end, all the wounds and struggles we endured in childhood, if we can work through them, they can become our power, our gifts, our insight, and our love.

While working through these childhood imprints is crucial to living a Life at Altitude, it is far from the only work. It is, however, the first step to waking up to the altitude that we can all achieve.

Why learn Inquiry Method™?

Most of you have never heard me define what Inquiry Method is, but you have seen me practice it. Inquiry Method is actually a partnered practice that can be done by anyone who understands and has learned the context. We’ll go more into that later – in upcoming posts, online courses, or in Inquiry Method Training.

The beauty and power of inquiry method, almost like and potentially even more powerfully than meditation, is that it teaches you to disidentify with your ego. Besides the direct benefit of what is discovered, there is a powerful and profound transformation in how you identify with who you really are.

One of the unique aspects of this practice, that at the beginning may not seem self-evident, is that the practice is the same whether you are the one asking the questions or you are the one responding to the questions.

The only difference in the positions is where we are putting our attention. In one position, I’m putting my attention on you. And in the other position, you are putting your attention on yourself, but we are both holding the same consciousness and a sense of curiosity and wonder. This is the true goal of the heart of the practice: to develop that view and be able to carry that view into our lives.

If you are interested in learning Inquiry Method and how to hold attention on yourself or others, you may want to check out our upcoming Inquiry Method Training

Emptying Out

Emptying out is an important life practice, as we go through our day/lives we accumulate thoughts, impressions, feelings, ideas, hurts, judgments, etc. There is a way that these things start to block our system, like a form of mental or emotional constipation.

It is important to clear our system out regularly to a safe listener. Some people know this consciously or unconsciously and practice it regularly with friends. Others don’t practice it and don’t necessarily value it or understand it. Part of this is that we are often conditioned to fix problems and focus on that, rather than listening.

Fixing is not the point, emptying out and being heard is the point.

I often give the talking stick exercise (practice) to my relationship clients to practice this and create a new dynamic in the relationship. It is wonderful to have a partner to whom you can empty out to. Emptying out feels clean, it clears up your thinking and reasoning and opens up your clogged mind to be free to think about creating things, gratitude, love, socializing, playing, and anything else you would like it to be doing rather than being stuck in endless loops of thinking and perseveration.

Read more about the talking stick exercise in this earlier blog

Transitions: Child to Adult—Mother to Person

A client asked me the other day, “As my children are beginning their lives, how do I take myself back and deal with the loss?” The first step is to recognize that you cannot get around the loss; the first thing you have to do is experience the loss, feel the sadness and mourn the changing reality.

This is something that women in particular need to be attentive to. They commonly ignore their lives and make children their whole focus (which is wonderful) but it is important to maintain a sense of personal identity with things, skills and activities that remind them of who they are. A lot of time when the kids go, many women feel like they are losing their whole identity. It’s not good for kids to be that central to the focus. It makes the children narcissistic and overly self-important little beings when they are the center of all that focus.

Personally, I see ‘mother’ as less of a doing role and more of a resource role, as somewhere the kids can go when they need it. In my view, when we make it such an involved role, it’s damaging to the children and it’s damaging to the mother as well because she does not really see her life as anything but being a servant or even subservient to children.

Honestly, I would compare this “loss and sorrow” to withdrawal from addiction. You are sad when the kids leave because you have not fully developed your own focus. It’s like you know something is no longer healthy for you and no longer part of your world and the only way to really go through recovery is to experience the loss of it. If you try to hang on to it, then you will not be satisfied. So, you really just have to take the loss and ask yourself what you want your life to be about now.

I recommend to every mother that in the first years they are everything to the child, and the ultimate practice of motherhood is to skillfully, gradually and artfully extract yourself over time. Let your children have more and more of their own lives so at the transition to their autonomy it is like there is no transition for them or for you.



Confident In Your Ignorance

We are a culture that values and defines ourselves by what we know. Knowing is so important, and yet we know so little. Our ignorance is almost complete. We do not know how gravity works. We do not know what light is. We do not know the best diet to keep the human healthy. We do not know why we are here. We do not know what we are doing, we do not know what happens after we die. We know virtually nothing and pretend to know everything. It is a great illusion. It happens on a grand scale, in science and medicine. And it happens on a micro scale on a day to day basis. It is one of the great obstacles to intimacy and connection. We so often think we know what is happening in another person, and most of the time we have no clue. This is why Inquiry is so powerful, because it is the process for understanding and knowing another person.

This awareness came to me so strongly while in a café, I was listening to a mother interact with her child. The child was asking questions and the mother was trying to know. Trying to give the answer. And in fact, she was inaccurate in her answers, and felt she needed to try to hold the higher ground of her authority and knowledge over her child rather than having the willingness not to know.

The willingness not to know created science. The willingness not to know created discovery and invention. The willingness not to know is the forefront of genius. Knowledge is not genius, genius is the willingness not to know.

That is why I teach Inquiry and that is why I see Inquiry as the basis of relationship, and our engagement with life is this willingness to go forward into the world without knowing with the openness and curiosity to discover.

This interest in discovery and self-discovery is the basis of the spirituality behind Inquiry Method™. It is the basis of what we teach and what I want to convey to people when they participate in the processes and the coaching that I offer.





It is important to understand truth to be able to work with Inquiry Method.

Truth is a fact, it is data, and it is measurable, collectable, recordable, and experiential. Truth is supremely useful to know about yourself, your world, relationships, and business.

The opposite of truth is opinion, judgment, and interpretation. Your interpretation “what it means” is rarely useful. Interpretation is so often influenced by our ego, past, pain, beliefs, etc.… It is like looking through a dirty distorted window, very little can be seen.

A simple example would be the difference between someone saying to another person “what you said is hurtful” vs. “when you said (x) I felt hurt”, the first interprets the others intention and the second is simply reporting the external and internal data. This may seem simple but the difference between the above two statements is huge for your personal development and growth.

Every time we interpret we take ourselves off course, we begin to believe in mind over self. Your mind is constantly deceiving you about yourself and others.

There is nothing inherently wrong in your thoughts or this desire to interpret others and yourself; it is just that these things need to be tested through inquiry. In the above situation, from a place of inquiry, you could say, “when you said (x) I felt hurt, did you want to hurt me?” or “what was your intention?” …

When you share the data with the other person that when they said (x) you felt hurt that is something they can use, if they are able, to deepen their understanding of you or themselves.

This is of course a subject that is huge, massive, in its implications, the tip of the iceberg. Begin looking to see if you can see more of it. Look into the implications of the difference between interpretation and data in your life and your relationships. Begin to identify which is which.


Where Do I Look?

Approaching life through the Inquiry Method provides a basic place to begin with any issue that may arise.

We are tempted to say, “This person did this” or “They shouldn’t have done that,” or we try to explain how or why it is not about us.  We are tempted to explain or defend ourselves.  Much of this explaining and defending came about as we were growing up, when we witnessed others who did not want to take responsibility for what was happening, and so they tried to pass it on.

A lot of our energy goes into deflecting blame or responsibility.  We engage in a kind of “hot potato” blame passing game.

In Inquiry, we always look first to ourselves.  We do not look to blame ourselves or anyone else.  We inquire so that we can recognize our patterns which increases our understanding of ourselves. What patterns, beliefs, pain, attitudes, etc., are you contributing to what is happening in your life right now?  Blame is an outward movement; self-reflection is an inward movement.

As we begin the Inquiry Method and continue the work, we come to understand that whatever is happening, it is always, always, always, always, always, always… about us.  This is where true inquiry begins.

If we can find that the source of any issue begins with us, then that is the good news, because we can always do something about that.  (In Inquiry Method, we recognize we can never change another person).

“Mindset”, Book Review

I confess I haven’t read the whole book sent to me by a client but I love the premise of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.

In her research, Carol has discovered that we can either have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. This can apply to us as individuals, and also in areas of our lives that have either fixed or growth mindsets.

A fixed mindset indicates that we believe one of two things: that either we cannot change or some aspect of ourselves cannot change.

A growth mindset indicates that we believe we have the capacity to change ourselves or some aspect of ourselves.

She found that these two different beliefs about oneself resulted in very different behavior, as you might suppose.

Those with a growth mindset apply themselves to developing the skills and capacities that will enhance their lives, while those with a fixed mindset don’t. Each approach gets the results you might expect.

Do you believe you can grow and change?

What aspects of yourself do you have a growth mindset around?

What aspects of yourself do you have a fixed mindset around? (You may find that you say things like, “I can’t do math,” etc.)

Do you believe that your happiness and wellbeing are fixed?

How about your capacity for love?

How about your leadership ability?

It turns out you tend to get what you expect about these things. What aspect of yourself would you like to have a growth mindset for?

How To Change Another Person

Not possible.

How would it change your perspective if you walked through life knowing that you cannot change anyone else?

How would it change your communication with others if you never wanted them to change?

The only person able to change you is you. The only person able to change them is them.

If we are not trying to change another person, the most effective tool is Inquiry. Once we realize that we can’t change others, then Inquiry is useful for finding out what they are like, what they feel, and what they want.

Even though we can’t change them, can still know them and find a way to have them in our picture.

Through Inquiry, we may be able to find a way in which we want inspires the other person to behave in a way that gets them (and potentially you) what they (and you) want and your wants overlap.

Try walking through one day with no desire to have anyone change. Just be curious about others and see what happens. See where you find overlaps (wants for “us”).

Aligning With Truth

Inquiry Method is about getting in alignment with truth.

Sometimes it is an objective truth, the truth about “what is,” and we will never be effective if we are resisting “what is” (that which will not change).

Sometimes it is subjective truth, what is true for us in our inner selves. We will never be effective if we are resisting our inner truth.

Sometimes it is about some one else’s inner (subjective) truth. We will never be effective if we are resisting some one else’s inner truth.

Resistance to truth in all its forms is futile. It wastes energy, time, love, money, happiness, and life.

Inquiry Method is a reliable tool for discovering truth.

On a foundation of truth, we become effective. Our energy, engagement, application, and creativity mean something and are not wasted.

The outcome of aligning with the truth is a greater amount of energy, time, love, money, happiness, and fulfillment.