Become aware of what you’re feeling. Let’s say you’re trying to schedule an important meeting with someone who regularly doesn’t respond in a timely fashion and you’re feeling pressured and frustrated. Instead of avoiding the discomfort, tune inward and note which parts of you are provoked.
In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Bridgit Dengel Gaspard.
Bridgit Dengel Gaspard, LCSW, is the author of The Final 8th: Enlist Your Inner Selves to Accomplish Your Goals and founder of the New York Voice Dialogue Institute. She is a former performer who earned a Master’s degree from Columbia University and teaches at numerous professional settings including Omega Institute. She lives in New York City where she maintains a thriving private practice.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
As a kid I wanted to be an actress or therapist. I ended up doing both and they have more in common than meets the eye. At their essence is the power of story and gaining the ability to shift your inner narrative. Learning the art and craft of performance, writing and comedy in New York City I naturally rallied many traits of resilience like flexibility, hardiness, adaptability, perseverance, curiosity, bravery and buoyancy. It never occurred to me that I was a small business owner, and only realized later that I developed vital entrepreneurial skills and mindsets in the process of following my passion. One day during that era I was electrified when I read about a revolutionary technique called Voice Dialogue, where you communicate directly with your different alter egos to learn their wisdom — even the inner selves that are painful and vulnerable. I hunted down the creators, Drs. Hal and Sidra Stone, which at the time meant finding out their 1.800 number. I now have the good fortune to call them mentors. I immersed myself in Voice Dialogue and started training. As a performer, this creativity tool was a natural fit for exploring different characters. What I didn’t predict is that Voice Dialogue would change my life, as I witnessed the profoundly healing effect of embodying different alter egos for myself and many, many others. I shifted gears, enrolled in Columbia University’s School of Social Work’s Master’s program and became a therapist combining my clinical expertise with my creativity tools. It’s transformational when you experience yourself as so much more than you think you are. In my practice I help dedicated, talented, hard-working people with creativity blocks, who get 7/8 of the way to their goal and mysteriously stall in sight of the finish line. At a certain point I realized that you may feel you want your goal with every fiber of your being, but not all of you wants what you think you want. Some of your alter egos are resisting your cherished goal and for very good reason! This led to my new identity: Author of the ‘Final 8th: Enlist Your Inner Selves To Accomplish Your Goals’ which introduces Voice Dialogue and gives readers a step-by-step guide to access their inner resilient team of wise counselors, canny advisors, and magical sages with the precise superpower to break through their impasse and cross their finish line.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Taking a risk and daring to be a beginner are important keys to moving forward. The truth is we have no idea where actions may ultimately lead. At a certain point when I was performing I felt stuck and disempowered by the audition system, so I began writing stand-up material not just because I love comedy, but because I wanted to have some agency over my career as well as to gain respect within the industry. It never occurred to me this would lead to many invitations to be an entertainment journalist for various publications, including covering the Cannes Film Festival for Hollywood.com and Sandy Kenyon of 1010WINS Radio. A major take away is how vital it is to be curious about the wisdom within the parts of you that you consider troublesome, especially when you’re feeling stuck, overwhelmed and frustrated. Those parts of myself that were upset about my progress were accurate. They made me face the truth that chasing auditions was not the key to my moving forward. Writing may not have seemed like the obvious strategy as a solution for a stuck actor, but it was perfect for me and continues to be integral to my career path.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
For many hard-working achievers, doubling down and working harder is not the answer. That’s both good and bad news, because it often means that in order to move forward you have to abandon your tried and true methods. I practice what I preach and provide support for the vulnerability it takes to embrace different parts of yourself. I’m steadfast in the belief that following creative impulses, intuition and spidey senses is inherently exciting, and thus, productive. Joyful pursuit will always lead somewhere fruitful and often from unlikely sources. The New York Times seems to be a big part of my path because that is where my eye caught an article about someone I had not previously heard of: Colin Wilson. He suggested that choosing optimism has intellectual heft and recommended, “Live as if at any moment you may get the absurd good news.” That is now the underlying philosophy behind all that we do.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
A few months ago, the co-creator of Voice Dialogue, Dr. Hal Stone passed away in his sleep in the home he shared with Dr. Sidra Stone, his wife of almost 50 years. Without them I would not be the person I am today. They welcomed me into their community and not only actively encouraged my learning but enjoyed my presence. This gave me the confidence to trust myself and my instincts. Also, both of them always saw my larger picture before I did and supported my moving into ever more powerful domains. One day during a group retreat Hal said to me very directly, “It’s impossible to help people do the deep, transformational work you have a natural affinity for, while simultaneously working in a traditional psychiatric institution.” He was right and I shifted to private practice within months.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
The rock band, Chumbawumba sings the ultimate definition of resilience, “I get knocked down, but I get up again.” An overall trait that bolsters resilience is understanding the importance of embracing all of ourselves. The formula for success is to galvanize our unique energies to put our best foot forward in any given situation.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
My client, who is in a leadership position in a global organization with enormous responsibility, including being an active member of the team that contributes to the company’s vision for the future, incorporating the effects of Covid and societal uncertainties. She does all of this while living with a permanent neurological disorder which continues to worsen. She has Olympian resilience and is breathtakingly inspiring. She rallies the specialists and support she needs when she has to endure devastating milestones, like transitioning from walking with crutches to driving a motorized wheelchair and needing a customized van. She is unwavering in her commitment to having a full life of creativity and service. She embraces all of her alter egos especially ones that feed her soul like her writer, her artist, her music-lover, and her Drama Queen because she also likes to have fun!
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
I definitely have an alter ego or two who enjoy the challenge of being told something is impossible and finds it fun to try to do it anyway. I also have a part that questions the validity of the impossibility. “Who says?!” I’d like to share 2 examples. Before starting my freshman year, I was told not to even bother applying for a brownstone dorm because they go to upper classmen. I thought to myself that was ridiculous because some freshmen have to be allowed in. I was right and loved living with my creative cohort in a brownstone. The other was when, after living together for years and years, my beau and I decided to get married and have a wedding within 3 months. I wanted a wedding announcement in the New York Times, but that was impossible because it was too short notice as they require a long lead time. This news freed me from having to follow any protocol. I secretly wrote and submitted our unique love story highlighting the fact that we were non-traditional in many ways including each of us getting married for the first time later in life. My assessment was that the rules were not going to be relevant as they would either be interested or not. We got in.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
Generally, my doubting and dutiful alter egos have been part of my setbacks because the former make me wonder whether I deserve success or have enough capabilities and the latter care more about making other people happy than myself. Both halt my forward motion even when it’s long past time to move on. I’ve had several supervisors and bosses who were bullies and until I learned the power of having access to my varying alter egos and their specific superpowers, I defaulted to minimizing my strength and negating my creativity. This strategy obstructed my career development. One of the reasons I wrote my book was to help others not to do that, or stop doing it if they’re holding themselves back.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
My childhood made me aware that whatever was occurring on the surface also included a vast reality underneath. This awareness made me know there is always more than meets the eye and strengthened my ability to tune in and keep my own counsel when necessary. These powers of observation forged endurance, distress tolerance and the ability to see many perspectives simultaneously and not be dependent on immediate gratification. When I was 8 years old with my family looking across the river, I suddenly saw red lightning! I was ecstatic at this surprise and screamed with delight. My mother immediately said there’s no such thing as red lightning. Thank goodness I knew she was wrong, because I saw it. This contributed to my knowing at a young age that many people literally don’t see what is in front of them if it doesn’t fit their expectations. It felt marvelous when years later I opened the science section of the New York Times to find columns and columns devoted to beautiful colored lightning.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Stop. Breathe. Repeat. Slowing down is a resilience muscle. Use it. Many busy productive people can benefit from the counterintuitive advice, “Don’t just do something, sit there.”
- Become aware of what you’re feeling. Let’s say you’re trying to schedule an important meeting with someone who regularly doesn’t respond in a timely fashion and you’re feeling pressured and frustrated. Instead of avoiding the discomfort, tune inward and note which parts of you are provoked.
- List them regardless of your opinion about them. In “Surfing Your Inner Sea,” Raphael Cushnir writes, “Don’t confuse awareness with approval.” You can wish a certain part of you wasn’t triggered (perhaps your Quitter, Shut-Down Self and Temper Tantrum Thrower) but it’s much more effective to deal with them directly because they’re here.
- Now that you’re calmer, notice if a solution, or a next-step idea, pops in. Intuition often whispers, so it’s up to you to listen. Perhaps this is when you contact a mentor, go for a walk or maybe do both.
- Remind yourself of something you’re looking forward to (no matter how small) and don’t forget to actually do it.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would love to inspire a Final 8th annual weekend immersive gala with a closing night dance-a-thon. Diverse attendees would enjoy panel discussions and shared group experiences where they discover and explore their unique selves. Some of these would be challenging and enlivening activities like a clown class, aerial dancing or visiting a horse farm. This would alchemize into deeply embodying the truth that we are all much more than we think we are. The astonishing power emanating from participants as they return to their homes and careers would radiate and inspire for years.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
In the last few weeks of his life, I was visiting my father when he opened his mail. He was surprised to find a letter from his decades-long family friend who lived nearby. Dad read Harry’s letter aloud. Harry wrote that he was reading a book that suggested thanking the people in his life who’d been advocates for his creativity. They had known each other since drama school and he officially thanked my father for his on-going support of his talents. We were both moved. My father passed away. After autumn shifted into winter and moved into spring, I asked Harry what that book was as the concept and the timing of his letter rocked my world. His answer? Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I dove in immediately and continue to unequivocally recommend her book which is now 25 years old. I can point to specific creative accomplishments she emboldened me to bring into the world. Years later I gave my copy to my stepdaughter who was galvanized to helm her creative projects in new courageous ways. Julia Cameron is who I’d love to have lunch with! Why? To thank her for her support of my creativity, to hear her thoughts about how creativity can be supported during this era, and to see if I can be helpful to her in any way.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!