By Manvi Pant
Even as a child, Nicole LePera loved learning about human thoughts and behaviour. “Growing up, I often felt different from others I met, and for as long as I can remember, I was drawn to understand what made people behave as they did,” writes the successful Los Angeles-based psychologist and Instagram icon in her newly launched book, How to Do the Work (Hachette, Rs 599).
The book, which Dr Nicole’s 3.7 million followers on Instagram had been anticipating for weeks, lays a strong emphasis on awakening one’s ‘inner child’, and is equally applicable for parents and non-parents.
“The inner child is created from our childhood experiences,” Dr Nicole tells eShe. “The greatest impact on our inner child comes from our parent-figures who ideally meet our physical, emotional, spiritual needs. As each person does the work, they heal their own inner child, and model a new way of existing for their children. We teach the younger generation to have a healthy relationship to their inner child by showing them our own healthy relationship with our inner child.”
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Dr Nicole’s understanding of human behaviour coupled with her own experiences as a child led her to Cornell University where she studied psychology, and then to a PhD in clinical psychology at the New School of Social Research, New York.
After studying various therapeutic models designed specifically for mental ailments, she realised, “The idea of harnessing the power of the body to help heal the mind was dismissed as antiscience. Or worse, New Age nonsense.” In 2018, she launched her private practice focusing on holistic psychology.
In the 20th century, healthcare globally developed strategies to address mental ailments. It was ascertained that mind, body and spirit, which were treated as separate entities earlier, were in fact closely related.
The policies and interventions used thereafter attempted to understand a patient’s need in a more holistic manner. And, that gave birth to an integrative ground approach called ‘holistic psychology’.
While we in the Indian subcontinent are familiar with the concepts of yoga, the chakras and Ayurveda, all of which take a more holistic approach to wellbeing, this approach dates back to 2,500 years ago in the Western world as well, when ancient Greek physician Hippocrates introduced it for the first time. Even so, it took several years to enter mainstream healthcare in the Western world.
Today, as mental health issues continue to be on the rise, holistic therapy is still not as widely known or practised. However, Dr Nicole in her book ensures that her readers from across the world get an in-depth view into all aspects of this approach.
She defines it as a movement that’s committed to the daily practice of creating your own wellness by breaking negative patterns, healing from the past and creating a conscious self.
Coupled with engaging exercises after every chapter, the book offers its readers the support and tools that will allow them to break free from destructive behaviour to reclaim and recreate their lives.
With her vast following online, Dr Nicole feels strongly connected to her community and religiously promotes self-healing when it comes to mental health.
Her posts are empowering and re-affirming in nature and most of them insist on using the self-care tools that all humans already have inside them as a means to heal. She also talks about ‘reparenting the inner child’, ‘intention setting’, and ‘the power of manifestation’ on her blog.
In April 2020, Nicole started the #selfhealer movement to further the idea that mental health is directly proportionate to the will of an individual. She is brutally frank in her posts, narrating her own journey to empower others in theirs.
Sample this post: “When I was 19 years old, my parents were devastated to find out I was gay. My mom pretty much had a breakdown and refused to speak to me for months… I’ve come to understand that the level of tolerance and understanding of others is in direct connection to the tolerance and understanding people have with themselves. The more disconnection there is to the Self, the more fear. Where there’s fear, there will be projected pain.”
She also says, “When people struggle to accept other people, remember, they’re also (internally) struggling deeply to accept themselves… You need no one’s permission to be yourself.”
Dr Nicole herself condemns the traditional approaches to mental wellbeing and feels that these psychological systems seek to diagnose people as “mentally ill” and fail to look at why people have symptoms in the first place.
Another important aspect she emphasises is setting clear boundaries. According to Dr Nicole, boundaries allow us to have clear limits in a time of high overwhelm.
“If we don’t have boundaries around, how we spend our time and how we use our energy, we will feel drained or resentful, which does not allow the time and space to practise self-awareness. By setting boundaries, we can create small amounts of space for us to take care of ourselves and to get to know ourselves, our true needs, and our true passions,” she says.
Dr Nicole also maintains that this should be done from the beginning since children learn not by what they are taught, but what they are modelled within their home.
“Parents need to work on and prioritise their own emotional and emotional wellbeing in order for children to learn how to do the same.”
As we move to a more informed world, more and more people are now drawn to holistic psychology. Recognising the growing pattern, Dr Nicole believes the world is getting highly receptive to holistic healing because people intuitively understand that there are deeper, root causes to their behaviours.
First published in eShe’s May-June 2021 issue
Read also: The Call of the Inner Child