Lee: Well, hello, my friend, thank you so much for joining me on the Coach with Clarity Podcast. I've been looking forward to this conversation for a really long time.
April: Me too, Lee. Thanks so much for having me on.
Lee: It is absolutely my pleasure. Let's start off with the basics. I would love to just kind of share a little bit about who you are, and the work you do for the world.
April: Sure, yeah. And, and I'll just clarify that I'm, I'm sharing this from a self as, what is it, process level, right? That's what I do in the world. But what I do in the world is I, I, psychologist, and I, executive coach, and I, train and I, author. And occasionally I also consult for companies who are developing well being programs or content.
Lee: Excellent. I love that as kind of the initial like, here's what I am, here's what I do. And as you and I both know, and I'm sure we will talk about this later, there are many levels to describe who we are and how we function in the world. So we can go a little deeper. And in fact, I'd love to know a little bit about your journey, and especially your journey, as an author, because you have an amazing book out, we're going to talk a little bit more about that in a bit. But I'm always intrigued, especially with the authors, how they choose to write a book, what brought them to that point and what that process was like for them.
April: Yeah, I love talking about writing, I, you know, I feel like I started writing when I was eight years old, I have journals that go all the way back. And then my first official or formal job out of college was actually as a speech writer on Capitol Hill. So I, you know, was doing a lot of narrating and languaging of ideas and adapting it for different people's styles and tone and paid a lot of attention to that. And then I also after leaving Capitol Hill, became a songwriter. And so there I was writing, and I wrote across genres and had to write from lots of different perspectives, different socio-cultural, you know, sort of identities. And so writing has always been, I guess, in my blood. And then when I entered the field of psychology, as I think, you know, maybe a few some of your listeners know, I developed a therapy protocol and wrote a book on that called Emotion Efficacy Therapy. And then this last book I wrote is actually the self help version of that protocol. And I got started writing that, really, the pandemic was a kick in the butt for me around getting that done, because I'd had lots of people requesting it. And people were buying the professional book for Emotion Efficacy Therapy, and they wanted, I wanted them to have something that was more geared toward the public.
Lee: What I love about your story, April is that writing has always been a part of not just what you do, but in a sense, who you are and how you relate to the world, how you express yourself, I suspect probably how you make sense of the world around you. That's how it's always been for me too. And so it's almost coming full circle, then that you then kind of move into psychology, you develop this framework and then writing reentered, although actually probably never left, but it reentered in terms of a way to kind of disseminate your framework, your message to the world.
April: Yeah, the context shifted in which I was writing for psychology and yes, it does feel like something that's always been really important to me. I, you know, I grew up in a family where self expression was encouraged and, and I ran with it.
Lee: I love that. So let's dive in. Because I really enjoyed your book. And I, one of the things I appreciated most about it was that you use the metaphor of the matrix throughout. A metaphor for our emotional world. And so I'd love to kind of start by framing what the emotional matrix is, and how it connects to emotional efficacy. So maybe we're just kind of defining the terms before we really dive into the discussion.
April: Oh, yes, absolutely. Yes. So in the book, I frame our emotional worlds as being made up of both noise and signal. And the noise that our emotional world is, it's not bad. But it's not always finely tuned, and it makes up what I call our “default reactions”. Or I also refer to it as “being plugged into the emotional matrix”. And what that means is, you know, we're all wired to act, to stimuli in internally or externally in our worlds in different ways. And, and this shows up in ways that we understand it as like, I'm genetically wired in this particular way. Or it can also show up as the biases that all humans are wired with, to do or not do certain things. And then also the beliefs we develop about our emotions mean that we're more likely to react in certain ways, without really thinking and listening in for what matters most. And that's, that's where we get signal. Signal is when we're able to listen in carefully enough to understand what matters most and then respond to whatever is happening in a creative, flexible and intentional way.
Lee: Excellent. So how does emotional efficacy then connect? And maybe actually, before we even get to that question, maybe we should really dive into what emotional efficacy is. Because I know that that I mean, that's a fundamental piece of the work you do. And then we can talk about not just what it is, but how we can increase it. But what are the core components of emotional efficacy?
April: Yeah, and if it's okay, I'll just step back even a little bit further, just because what I find is, we, most of us walk around thinking we understand what emotions are, but that's not always the case. So emotion actually comes from the Latin word emotere, which literally means energy in motion. And in the emotion efficacy model, emotion is made up of your “stuff”, that’s sensations in your body, thoughts that you have, urges to do something or not to do something, and then the feeling label that we put on all of that. So that's how we know what we're experiencing. What people also don't always understand is that emotions are our primary motivational force. So anytime that we want to do something, whether it's as subtle as shifting in our chair, as we're talking in this podcast, or having an urge to either turn it up, or turn it down, all of that is being motivated through emotional messages. Where emotion efficacy comes in is it, it tries to help people, the training helps people get more powerful in decoding those messages, because the messages that our emotions send us are not always helpful in context. So if you know, if a tiger in the olden days would show up, we would have a helpful default rat reaction to get out of the way, you know? We would look into its eyes and be frightened and see the size of it. But if we're in the office, and a coworker who happens to be taller than us gives us side eye, we tend to have the same default emotional reaction of wanting to hide or get out of the way or escape a lot of times, or we might have the default reaction to want to attack or defend ourselves. And that's not always helpful in context. So emotional efficacy is all about helping people figure out what matters most in context, and then align their actions with that.
Lee: What I really love about your approach to this April, is that when we frame things as being kind of led, or at least originating from our emotional responses, it helps put them into context and also normalizes it, because I think some people might assume that okay, well, if I'm having an unwanted event, and it's linked to emotions, maybe I need to change or stop having those emotions. But really, in your model, that's not the point. The point is to not stop the emotions, it's to change the way we relate to them. And I think that can be really freeing.
April: Yeah, not only is it not helpful to try to stop them, it's not possible. I've been really interested in watching social media around the content that gets posted about emotions and lately there's been a lot around positive vibes and positive vibes only. And you know, I hear it all the time in our culture, messages like “Don't cry,” or “Don't be upset.” and we're a very, in some ways, a very suppressive culture when it comes to emotions. We are, it makes sense that we're wired to move away from anything that is painful and toward things that are pleasurable. And we're wired to think, “Ooh, if I feel something that's a so called negative emotion, it must be bad.” Instead of learning how to pause, get curious and listen in, “What is this emotion telling me?” So, you know, what I say about emotions is they're always valid, they're always telling you something valid about the experience you're having, even if the urge that comes with that experience isn't so helpful in context.
Lee: Yes, and that is an extraordinarily helpful way to view this. So when we think about increasing our emotional efficacy, so that we're, so that we feel better equipped to respond to whatever's coming at us. Where should we begin?
April: Yeah, yeah. Well, there, there are four basic skills in Emotion Efficacy Training. The first one is emotional awareness. And that's really just having the ability to be present enough in the here and now to observe and describe your emotional “stuff”, which I mentioned earlier. That's an acronym for sensations, thoughts, urges and feelings. And just by being able to tune in and observe your “stuff”, you've already interrupted, any default emotional reactions. You're starting to tune in. And then the second second step would be just learning how to hang out with unwanted experiences. So it's one thing to be able to name your “stuff”, it's another thing to really make space for it, not resist it. And very importantly, not act on the urge that comes with it. So, I call the second step emotion surfing, the idea is you're almost on top of the emotion wave. It's like you're watching it, you're letting it happen. And you're not, you know, trying to stop it or suppress it. And you're just hanging out letting the discomfort be there, leaning into it. Then the third, the third step is to be able to listen in to what really matters. Sometimes it'll be the same as the urge that's coming with the emotion. But sometimes that urge isn't what's most helpful in terms of aligning your actions with how you want to show up in that moment. And so being able to listen in and get clear on “No, you know what I care more about speaking up right now than just listening.” Or maybe it's the opposite. Maybe what matters most is just listening to your boss, as he's telling you everything he doesn't like about your presentation, instead of speaking up. Again, it depends on the context. But being able to figure out what matters most is an automatic upgrade to what we would typically do if we were just reacting in the moment because we're so wired to escape what's uncomfortable. And then the fourth step in Emotion Efficacy Training is learning how to regulate your emotions. So sometimes that wave will come and you'll be able to surf it long enough to listen in for what matters. But sometimes we get hit by big emotion tsunamis. And in those cases, you need ways to regulate your emotion, to dial down the intensity of it, just enough to be able to act on what matters. And that's important, it's important to, you know, just highlight here that the goal with with those emotion regulation skills is not to just get rid of unwanted experience, but to be able to dial down, dial it down enough to focus on what matters.
Lee: So, I love kind of how you've outlined this process. So we have the emotion awareness. And that alone enough sometimes is enough to kind of stop the cycle or break the cycle so that we're not automatically responding. Because then once we're aware, we can then move to the second stage, which is surfing that emotion and understanding that even though it feels really big, and even though it may be a huge wave that's about to crest, we're still able to ride that wave. Even if it's scary, even if it's an unwanted emotion, we have that ability. And then we can connect with our values, with what matters most to decide how we want to take action. And I love the point you made, which is sometimes that action may be in alignment with that default response we had. That initial urge, and sometimes it won't, but when we pause and check in with our values, then even if it is that initial response, it's coming from a place of intention versus reactivity. I really love that point that you made.
April: Yeah, I've seen these skills make huge differences in people's lives, whether it's a CEO who goes to negotiate, you know, a deal and is able to surf through feeling, you know, offended or condescended to, and they're able to stay connected and stay focused on what matters, which is getting a fair deal. Or whether it's me writing my book and a pandemic with double frozen shoulder. And my default reaction would be just to stay on the couch and binge watch, you know, Ozark or something.
Lee: And that would be mine, too.
April: And instead, being able to listen in to what matters most, which was writing this book and getting it out. And that allowed me to stay with the discomfort and continue to, you know, show up in a way that was most meaningful to me.
Lee: Yes. And that's a beautiful segue to into emotional regulation, that fourth step, which is then kind of placing us in that power position of deciding how amplified can this emotion be? Do I want to turn the volume down? To what extent will I allow it to inform my actions? I mean, the way you've laid this out so that they're all connected makes makes a great deal of sense.
April: Well, I appreciate that. And I'm also just impressed by your ability to reflect it and summarize it. You clearly have read the book.
Lee: I have, it's all highlighted and notes in the margins. I can't recommend it enough. And we'll talk more at the end about how people can get their copy. But one question that that I wanted to ask you, in particular, because you are a psychologist, you yourself are a coach. And so the tools and the frameworks that you've created, certainly, we can use them for ourselves, but we can also use them with our clients. And so I would love to know from you how you would like to see coaches incorporating elements of emotional efficacy, Emotional Efficacy Training in the work they do with their people.
April: Yeah, so I love this question, because I think that the topic of emotion working with emotion and coaching is something that people have lots of different perspectives and opinions and feelings about. And, you know, to answer your question, I'd love for coaches to use all of these elements in coaching. You know, as coaches were trained to assess and figure out who's appropriate for coaching. And here's the thing about emotions, you know, we take our emotions with us, everywhere we go, whether it's work or home, or whether we have a mental health diagnosis or not. And it's always in play, our emotions are always in play, you could think of them like music in the background, there's, they're like a soundtrack. And so in a work setting, or you know, in a coaching setting, your clients emotions are still just as central to their experience and the choices they're making as if you're working in therapy with them. And so as long as you're working with someone who has unprocessed trauma, or is, you know, has active psychosis or something like that, Emotion Efficacy Training can can absolutely be used in coaching to help people level up their choice making and their values based moves.
Lee: What a relief, because I can see how naturally it could be introduced into a coaching framework. And being a therapist turned coach myself, I'm very familiar with the pushback that sometimes we hear or see in the therapeutic communities around coaching. And I think the point you just made is really important. It's one that I want to stress, which is there is a time and a place for therapeutic intervention. And certainly if one's emotions are overtaking to them, them to the point where day to day functioning, is impaired, or there's really a mental health process underneath that that needs to be explored. Whether it's trauma or severe anxiety or recurrent depression, like these are the things where yes, a therapeutic approach with a licensed professional is probably, probably if not definitely the way to go. But for those of us who are coaching our clients who are experiencing typical stressors, quote unquote, normal responses to abnormal events. This is where emotional efficacy can really help people in a non clinical way because, in many ways, emotional efficacy is a foundational life skill. I think about parenting my two teenagers and just how important emotional efficacy is for them especially in the throes of adolescence. And they're trying to manage all of these big, big feelings.
Lee: And that's not pathological. It's life. And so to think about how you can apply your tenants to just coaching and living, I think is really powerful.
April: No, I appreciate you saying that. And I love your reference to teenagers, you know, I often think of being a teenager as sort of being dosed, you know, it's like you've been drugged, and the volume is turned up on everything, and you're more vulnerable to being triggered or reactive. And, you know, this is also how any of us get when something we really care about is threatened or when we feel unsafe. And so and nothing about that is pathological. Nothing about that requires clinical intervention. It's only when people end up in chronic patterns, behavior patterns, that they can't get unstuck from that, you know, they need more serious intervention. So coaching can do quite a lot around this. But yeah, in those states where we end up, you know, as I am, you know, choosing to sort of use the metaphor of being dosed, we all need the ability to ride the wave or listen in until we're just going to become victim to our default settings. And nobody wants that, you know, we all want to be the best version of ourselves possible, unless we, you know, somehow meet criteria for being, you know, sociopaths.
Lee: Well, and I think I think to your point, you're right, that's, that's what we all want. And that's why I love the way you've written your book. It takes evidence based philosophies and theories, but translates them in a very easy to understand, user friendly way. I really love how you use metaphor, stories and examples, including personal examples. You're not afraid to share your own life experience and how you've used this yourself. And I just found that to be such a lovely connection point within the book itself. It made everything you were talking about just come to life. And I could start seeing easily how to apply this both in my life and then in the work that I do with my clients. So well done on that.
April: That’s great to hear. No, I appreciate it. You know, I really wanted to make sure that this book didn't give people just the what of emotion efficacy, but the how. And so you know, those examples are in there. I also put exercises, inquiries and reflections, challenges. And then also there, on my website, I have experiential exercises that allow you to even deepen further, your skillfulness and level up your emotion efficacy. So,
Lee: Excellent. We will be sure to link to your website in the show notes. So definitely go check that out if you want to learn more. But April, I think my last question for you is, if you imagine your ideal reader, opening your book, reading it, putting it down and just taking a deep breath. What, what key takeaway Do you want them to integrate? Having read your book?
April: Hmm, oh, that's such a powerful question. I think it would be just a sense that more. You know, what I see limit clients, whether it's therapy or coaching so often is the way they're languaging through their life. And the stories we tell ourselves are understandable stories, but they are most often, you know, we make 35,000 choices a day, and 98% of those are automatic, you know, default reactions. Most often they are not contextually sensitive, meaning they don't align with what matters in context. So I would love for a reader to have this idea that you know, what really matters is possible to them and in every choice, that that's what they have control over. Not not having pain, not not having unwanted emotions. But they do have control over their moments of choice.
Lee: That comes through in the book, the fact that there is a way for us to feel that sense of agency over the actions we take, and that more is possible. And I think your book does a lovely job of opening up those opportunities and showing us how even within the matrix, we still have a sense of direction. I hesitate to use the word control. That's the word that keeps wanting to come and yet you and I both know that there's only so much control we really have. But that's why I like the idea of agency, of being able to cocreate that really resonates with me.
April: Yeah, no, I love that too. And I definitely only use the word control with choice and not emotions. And you're right though that even sometimes we get so flooded by emotion. Choices aren't available to us and, and so that's, that's what the emotion regulation skills are for. To bring us back to that place of agency.
Lee: Well, I know that everyone listening to our conversation right now, they're gonna want to connect with you. They're going to want to read your book. So let us know where's the best place to find you and how can we get a copy of your latest release?
April: Yeah, sure. Well, my website is a great place to connect with me it has pretty much everything I'm up to these days. And that's www.drapriliawest.com. I also am on social media, on Instagram @DrApriliaWest. And then my book is available on Amazon. The book is called What You Feel Is Not All There Is. And then lastly, if you're a professional coach or a therapist or a behavior analyst, I am doing ongoing trainings on Emotion Efficacy Training, and that is, the registration and details are available also on my website.
Lee: Excellent. Well, we will link to all of that in the show notes. You can see I've got my copy on my Kindle, right here. So many highlights and notes. I can't recommend this enough. I think it should really be on the bookshelves of every therapist and coach. So definitely go check it out. And April, I cannot thank you enough for being a guest on the podcast. Thank you so much for your time today.
April: Oh, you're so welcome. Thanks for having me, Lee.
Lee: My pleasure.
Lee: Many thanks to my guest, Dr. Aprilia West for being on the show today. And I really hope you enjoyed our conversation. Everything she was talking about resonates so deeply with me. It's such a lovely articulation of how I tried to operate in the world, and how I work with my clients as well. Her book is so accessible, that it's perfect for mental health providers and coaches alike. It's also perfect to share with your clients. So I highly recommend getting your own copy we’ll have a link to April's website in the show notes. You can find this book pretty much at all major bookstores, I got my copy at Amazon for my Kindle. And you will definitely want to add your copy to your coaching toolkit.
And of course, if you are seeking more personalized support in growing your coaching business or taking the next step in your leadership as a CEO, then definitely check out the Coach with Clarity Mastermind. This is my hybrid program that includes one on one private coaching every month with monthly group mastermind calls, where you will connect with a small group of other coaches and support each other as you grow your businesses and accomplish your goals. It also includes access to quarterly workshops with industry experts. These half day events are so powerful, it's not just another training, you will attend them and leave with a personalized action plan to help you in whatever stage of your business we're discussing. Past workshops have focused on marketing and messaging, on branding, on positioning, on sales. I mean, you name it, we really cover a lot. And it's because the ideas for the workshops come from the Mastermind participants. So you are always getting access to exceptional people in the industry who really know what they're talking about, and who can support you every step of the way. The Mastermind also includes support between sessions from me via Voxer, and email, you'll have a private Voxer thread to connect with your fellow Mastermind cohort. And it also includes unlimited access to the Coach with Clarity Collective, my membership program. So all of this is encompassed within this nine month mastermind experience. So if you are looking to go even deeper in your coaching practice, I invite you to apply for the Coach with Clarity Mastermind, we have two spaces left and you can apply at coachwithclarity.com/mastermindapp. That's one word MASTERMIND A-P-P. Just complete a brief application and then I will reach out and we'll schedule a time to connect and see whether the Coach with Clarity Mastermind is the next right step for you in your coaching journey. So head to coachwithclarity.com/mastermindapp, and I can't wait to spend the nine months working together.
All right, my friend. That is it for this week. But I will be right back in your feed next week with a brand new episode of the Coach with Clarity Podcast. Be sure to follow or subscribe to the show if you haven't already. That way next week's episode will be waiting for you on Monday. Until then, my name is Lee Chaix McDonough reminding you to get out there and show the world what it means to be a Coach with Clarity.