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“Pay attention to your inner children”, Dr. Anne Redelfs and Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

The best way to turn a bad habit into a good habit is by making these traumatic scenes conscious — by remembering exactly what happened. We allow ourselves to feel the strong feelings that drive these stuck, automatic, bad-habit behaviors, whether these feelings are sadness, anger, fear, regret, guilt, or shame. We sense how these strong feelings […]

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The best way to turn a bad habit into a good habit is by making these traumatic scenes conscious — by remembering exactly what happened. We allow ourselves to feel the strong feelings that drive these stuck, automatic, bad-habit behaviors, whether these feelings are sadness, anger, fear, regret, guilt, or shame. We sense how these strong feelings want to be constructively expressed — speaking, writing, sculpting, painting, dancing, running, boxing, and so on. We uncover the false beliefs hidden in our stuck habitual behaviors too, and we affirm the truth — “I am not to blame for how my caregivers harmed me when I was small.”


As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anne Redelfs MD.

While training at Tulane Medical School, Anne Redelfs began to hear her patients’ souls tell her why they were struggling with various symptoms, disease processes, and other life challenges. She’s written four books and given many speeches based on what she has learned from this soul-listening. Calling herself a gardener of the soul, Anne helps her clients understand what their souls are saying through whatever is going on in their lives. She states, “When we regularly pause to listen to our souls and respond to their requests, our lives will flower and ultimately bear much fruit.”


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I had a seemingly happy childhood until I met my first competent therapist when I was 28 years old. Carol gently led me into my unconscious mind where I had stashed a lot of devastating memories as well as parts of my soul that had endured these traumas. I learned a lot from this personal experience about human soul development and the trauma that so often interferes.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

Once I remembered my father’s unspeakable violence, I felt driven to figure out how a human being could have lost his humanity to such a degree. One of my first courses in medical school was embryology. I was fascinated by how two cells coming together eventually results in the birth of a human being. During a two-year residency in pediatrics, I was again intrigued by how all humans go through various developmental stages on their way to physical adulthood. Working in inner city hospitals, I saw a lot of child abuse and neglect. I wondered about the long term effects of the traumas on these developing humans.

When I transferred to a psychiatry residency, my questions were answered. There, I met the same traumatized children I had been working with in pediatrics, only this time they were living in adult bodies. The trauma had stunted these kids’ development, and they had not emotionally and mentally matured. Yet, because we only mentioned physical ages in our reports, and not emotional and mental ages, few professionals seemed to notice. I began to realize that our patients’ symptoms were soul communications that were urging them to work through their unresolved trauma and continue along their developmental paths.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

Carol, my first competent therapist, comes to mind. She was the first person who was far enough along in her soul development to know and care for the whole of me. She courageously guided me through many unexplored areas of my life and self. She hastened my emotional and mental development more than any other individual.

In my mid-thirties, Carol and I were no longer connecting as well as we had been. I came home after one such therapy session and watched a nature program where a mama bear got rather rough with her cubs when it was time for them to leave home. I realized it was time for me to leave Carol’s life-saving and life-enhancing care. Since this departure, I have depended largely on soul-listening, hearing that wise whole soul within each of us that knows so well how to guide our growth.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

I struggle with the word “mistake,” in that it doesn’t allow for growth. For example, I believe it was a mistake for me to go to medical school. It was my father’s plan for my life and not my own. When I first began hearing my soul, she told me that medical school was not the best path for me. I disagreed. This was the bigger mistake. What was interesting about these “mistakes” is that the ensuing difficulties motivated me to become more earnest in hearing my soul and following her guidance. My residency experiences gradually improved after that. In retrospect, I am deeply grateful for this learning that came from my “mistakes,” so much so that I now remember my medical training as an amazing experience. I met many soul-full people that gave me what I needed to begin recovering from my traumatic past.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

The soul-full path is an arduous one. I remember a time in my life when I didn’t understand why my life had so many unexpected twists and turns and sudden stops. Then I saw the movie, “How to Train Your Dragon.” In this movie, dragon-riding was shown to be very precarious. The dragons would fly in one direction and suddenly head somewhere else. The dragons would fly straight down at break-neck speed only to pull out just before hitting the ground. The speed at which the dragons flew was greater than any other creature, and they could stop at a moment’s notice, while the humans on their backs would often keep flying. While watching this film, I realized why my life moved at such a rapid pace and changed so quickly and sometimes so completely. I was a dragon-rider!

My advice to those who desire to ride dragons (i.e., allow their souls to transport them) is to hold on: you’re in for the ride of your life! To translate this a bit more, please don’t let anything, neither falls nor injures nor burns, interfere with seeking earnestly your soul’s guidance and doing exactly as your soul requests.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Rumi is my favorite poet. In the Masnavi, Book 3, Story XVII, he writes:

“I died from mineralogy and became vegetable;

And from vegetativeness, I died and became animal.

I died from animality and became man.

Then why fear disappearance through death?

Next time I shall die

Bringing forth wings and feathers like angels;

After that, soaring higher than angels-

What you cannot imagine,

I shall be that.”

As I reflected on the teachings of Rumi, my soul explained that be fully human, we must pass through the following developmental stages: Mineral, Vegetable, Animal, Child, Woman, and Man. Each stage offers significant upgrades. Each time we progress to a new stage of psychological development, we acquire new ways of perceiving, processing, interpreting, expressing, acting, and so much more!

This Rumi poem turned into the method of assessing emotional and mental maturity that I had sought during my residencies but had not found! This method is easy to learn and applies to people the world over, the same as physical development. When these psychological ages are recognized, we can then know which habits, both constructive and destructive, people are capable of. We can discern how to help them mature, which means developing more constructive habits and relinquishing the destructive ones.

Unlike physical development, which is linear, psychological or soul development is cumulative. For example, if we reach the ultimate Stage of Man, we can then flexibly move in and out of all the younger stages as needed to further human development. Unfortunately, most people are stuck at young stages of soul development due to overwhelming trauma. They do unto others what was done unto them instead of meeting developmental needs.

This awakening people to their souls’ developmental stages has become my life’s work. At any moment in time, I now see everyone I meet as being in one of these stages in the various aspects of life. One of my life’s goals is to teach these stages, so people can discern where those in their lives are in their emotional and mental development and how to hasten their progress. Please see the “How Old Is Your Soul?” Quiz on my blog page and the many videos about staging on my website: AnneRedelfs.com.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

It is the quote above. Meditating on this quote, I began to understand that everything around us is a communication of something that is within us. With this knowledge, we can understand the soul communication of our lives. For example, I have tripped on rocks on more than one occasion. These events in the physical world were representing the fact that some Mineral-stager was tripping me up. My father was an obvious example of this youngest stage of psychological development. But, I eventually found some extremely young, insensitive, and rigidly uncompromising parts of me that were stuck in “their way,” or in other words, what they had learned would maximize their survival.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

My Toastmasters Club is for writers. We are putting together a compilation of stories of how the Coronavirus Pandemic has affected us. In my chapter, I talk about how our souls desire to be active participants in our lives. Like the dragon-riding analogy, we are meant to be moving through life together. When we try to do our lives “our way,” based on past learning, our souls let us know we’re going off course.

As I just mentioned, our souls communicate with us through our world, but also through our symptoms, relationship problems, work issues, etc. I have written a book about how souls speak through body symptoms, guiding us to grow. It’s called Illness Can Be the Cure. I’m now working on a video series that goes into detail about the soul communications that can be found within the diseases of every organ system. If people only understood the metaphoric language of their souls, they wouldn’t struggle so much nor suffer so much! They could instead hold onto their souls and allow them to take them somewhere exciting and new.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?

Good habits are those that further our own and others’ development. The older we are, psychologically speaking, the more confidence we have in riding that dragon. When we fall off and get hurt, good habits give us the strength to get back on. They give us the tenacity to hold on for dear life and the trust that when things look bleak or we’re headed for an imminent crash, we will pull out of it sooner rather than later.

Recovering from my devastating childhood got me into the habit of holding onto my soul as if my life depends on it. It did when my father was alive. Now that he is dead, I still cling to this habit as if life is at stake. Whether it is a physical life, emotional life, or life of mind, our growing humanity is always at stake.

To give an example, two friends once enthusiastically recommended that I hire a certain man to design a website for me. I met him online and got the sense that this would not go well. I checked with my soul, however, and was told that I needed to hire him, so I did. He turned out to be in the Vegetable Stage in his soul development, which means that underneath the charming appearance of his “above ground” or obvious personality, there were some dark roots — unconscious parts that were the exact opposite of who he professed to be. This “underground” personality ended up destroying my website and insisting that I pay him to restore it. When I refused, he put slanderous statements on my website for the world to see. It’s a rather long, complicated story, but the amazing result of this fiasco was that he was exposed as a ransoming rogue to some who had bought into his charm. One person who had been fooled sought competent counseling for the first time. Another person evaded a potentially damaging situation. To this day, I marvel at all that transpired and the many lessons for so many. That’s the soul for you!

How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

The greatest habit is giving over the reins of my life to One who knows better than I. Every morning, I have breakfast and then sit in prayer to inquire what I am to do that day. I ask whom I should talk to and anything specifically I should say. When I am told that the information is complete for now, I seek to implement the plan, holding on to my dragon for dear life!

Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?

We usually learn our habits, whether they are good or bad. Often, we don’t remember where we learned them; these memories are stored in the unconscious mind. All individuals have a conscious mind and an unconscious mind. Human soul development requires making the unconscious conscious. Yet, people routinely argue with me that they are aware of everything that has occurred to them. For example, they tell me, “I don’t have any unconscious trauma!” This is one of the bad habits that many people have — they assume they know everything about themselves. And, they resent a stranger implying she knows better.

I am speaking from experience, however. I remember what it was like when a stranger, Carol, turned my world upside down by guiding me out of my fanciful, yet comforting stories back into my harsh reality. I now do the same. When people are willing to put their “I know best” arguments aside, I tell them to tune into their bad habits and sense when they first experienced this type of behavior. When they are open, a traumatic scene usually surfaces and sometimes many. Some parts of their souls may be stuck at these traumatic scenes, and these parts are secondarily stunted in their development. These young soul parts may be automatically re-creating the trauma or avoiding the trauma, which are the two symptom categories of post-traumatic stress. You can find more information about my understanding of post-traumatic stress and its effects on human development in What the World Needs Now! Healing Trauma in Ourselves and Our Children.

The best way to turn a bad habit into a good habit is by making these traumatic scenes conscious — by remembering exactly what happened. We allow ourselves to feel the strong feelings that drive these stuck, automatic, bad-habit behaviors, whether these feelings are sadness, anger, fear, regret, guilt, or shame. We sense how these strong feelings want to be constructively expressed — speaking, writing, sculpting, painting, dancing, running, boxing, and so on. We uncover the false beliefs hidden in our stuck habitual behaviors too, and we affirm the truth — “I am not to blame for how my caregivers harmed me when I was small.”

This process of allowing our real experiences and reactions may need to be repeated many times if the trauma was chronic. Ultimately, we ask our souls for better, developmental ways of expressing ourselves. Practicing what our souls recommend is how we establish good habits, which always lead to growth — our own and others’.

Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness.

Optimum wellness merely requires tuning into our healthy whole souls each day and following their wise counsel. This good habit of listening to the soul can turn into three good habits when we ask what we should do in each area of our humanity: physically, emotionally, and mentally. For example, we might ask our soul what nutrition would be best for our physical bodies. We also ask for the best nutrition for our emotional bodies and minds. We inquire not only about exercising our physical bodies but exercising our emotional bodies and minds as well.

Please share a story or example for each.

I was once in a nutrition center with an acquaintance, Ashley.

She told the clerk, “A friend suggested I come here because she said you have a weight loss supplement that is highly effective — it really worked for her.”

The clerk said, “We do have a highly effective supplement. To maximize the effectiveness, however, you must follow the instructions exactly.”

With furrowed brow, my companion asked, “What are the instructions?”

The man responded, “You must take this pill three times a day, following the strict health food diet on the package insert. You must exercise vigorously at least 20 minutes each day too.”

Ashley grimaced, “Diet and exercise? I don’t want to do that!”

“I am so sorry,” the clerk spoke with regret, “but diet and exercise are required for this pill to be effective.”

I use this analogy because many people these days just want to swallow a pill without doing what it takes to become truly and wholly healthy. They don’t want to feed their bodies and souls only what supports their well-being. They don’t want to exercise body, heart, and mind. This resistance generally comes from a “stuck” place inside them, meaning there is an unconscious trauma that has yet to be explored and brought to consciousness.

A likely example would be childhood caregivers that just gave pills or other quick “fixes,” like sweet treats, rather than seeking to meet the true soul needs of the child. Of course, this child will have had some strong feelings about being treated in this insensitive manner. Lasting change always requires embracing this inner child and her strong feelings. Each adult must become the soul-sensitive parent that the child inside still needs.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

Deep listening is a good place to start. Listen to whatever is bothering you. It is a soul communication. What is it saying? How is it trying to help? Where is your soul trying to take you through this upset? As you go about your life, pause periodically to listen to how each frame of your experience, whether seemingly “good” or “bad,” contains some wise counsel.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport?

Trauma fragments the soul as we seek to rid ourselves of what hurts. Over time, we own some parts of us and disown other parts, typically the parts that are most traumatized. When we hide away our wounded inner children, we lose their seemingly boundless energy, their creativity, their sense of fun that can make even the most tedious work enjoyable. We also gain their bad habits. So for optimal performance, I would recommend:

  1. Pay attention to your inner children.
  2. Get to know them, as mentioned previously.
  3. Ask them how they want to contribute to your projects. For example, allowing one of my inner children to add PLAYFUL FONTS to whatever I am writing, keeps him from interfering in my otherwise “boring” work. (:

Please share a story or example for each.

I remember once working with a man I’ll call Thomas whose disorganization and slovenliness were greatly interfering with his work and his personal life. Asking him to tune inside as to who was creating all the messes, he met an angry two-year-old. This boy’s mom had been very controlling, insisting that everything was always in its proper place with no exceptions (another Mineral-stager). This boy was still rebelling against her decades later. Relating to this wounded inner child, Thomas could appreciate the boy’s saying, “NO!” to Mom and to anyone who “acted like her” (i.e., by suggesting he clean up his act). This man started to parent this small boy inside. He learned to express his anger in constructive ways. Instead of sabotaging his work, Thomas began adding a creative spark to his projects that earned him positive recognition instead of the negative feedback that he’d long grown accustomed to and had learned to call “home.”

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

A good habit that I would like to see more people practice is inquiring into their “bad habits,” as I mentioned above. First of all, the label “bad” is a judgment call that may be true for our current life circumstances but not valid of the past. Let me give another example.

I’m thinking of a woman, Courtney, whose dad was a chain smoker. When her parents divorced in her teen years, her dad left the country, and Courtney never saw him again. Her smoking in the present was clearly damaging her health. But her inner infant had bonded with her dad and his smoking. Whenever Courtney needed her dad, she lit a cigarette. Investigating her bad habit led her to finding this inner baby — an exceptionally good discovery! Any bad habit can lead us to find some castaway soul part, an inner child who has learned something good about this bad behavior.

I find many people merely use willpower in their attempts to defeat bad habits — an Animal Stage trait. If they only knew that these behaviors come from wounded inner children, they might be willing to interact with these kids instead. They need to understand these kids’ experiences and allow their feelings and thoughts about these experiences. Then, they might together come up with a heartfelt plan for behaving differently. Of course, these young soul parts will need lots of encouragement, including treats and other rewards. Getting plenty of support from loving family and friends is always helpful too.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.

Optimal focus requires looking inside as much as outside in order to perform well in both arenas. This inward focus and performance takes on relevance in the Child Stage of Development. In this stage of inner exploration and effort, we put aside past learning and develop the habit of non-judgment or balanced judgment. By this, I mean to withhold rigid judgments of “good” and “bad” and inquire into both.

For example, in regard to the smoker, Courtney: what’s good about this habit? Smoking reminded her of her dad and how close they once were. Smelling the tobacco made her feel like he was still with her and they were still close. What’s bad about this habit? Courtney’s doctor said that her lungs were showing the damage of years of breathing in toxic smoke.

In this nonjudgmental manner, we make conscious the two sides of this issue. We don’t make one better than the other, but seek to meet the needs of both. For example, for Courtney’s inner child who longs for her dad, is there a way this woman might contact her father? Is there someone local who could serve as a father figure? How might Courtney herself meet the needs and wishes of her inner child? In my book, With Every Addiction, “Infants” Are Trying to Meet Their Needs, I discuss many deeply satisfying ways to respond to these very young parts of our souls. The Developmental Stage of Woman is when we soul-fully meet the needs of these youngest soul parts.

Optimal focus requires seeing the whole of each situation and person, as with Courtney’s story. In summary, three good habits that can lead to this optimal focus are:

  1. Avoid polar judgments of “good” or “bad” and seek to see both the good and bad in all possibilities and all people.
  2. Understand where each position is coming from. We all know that threatened animals react with fight, flight, or freeze. When people consistently react in these ways, they are threatened. They typically have some conscious or unconscious trauma that has yet to be resolved. In the case of Courtney, losing her father when she was a teenager was very traumatic!
  3. Seek to meet the true underlying soul needs expressed by each position.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

Practice looking for and listening to the soul communication of each person you are with. I find most people look at the physical age of their companions to determine whether he or she is an adult. This assumption of maturity based on physical age leads them to ask inappropriate questions, such as, “What would cause a grown woman to act that way?” A better question would be, “Under these circumstances, which psychological age would behave in this manner?”

We need to tune into each soul part to discern his or her psychological age. I’m thinking of a friend who once told me that she didn’t realize how emotionally young her father was until he was sitting beside her two-year-old son, and she realized they were acting in a similar manner. They were both self-centered, demanding, and prone to tantrums!

As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?

Again, flow is holding on to that dragon, our healthy whole soul, and allowing it to take us where we need to go, whether to meet our own or others’ needs. When we get hurt, there is always the tendency to think we made a mistake. However, part of flow is not allowing our momentary discomfort or sense of remorse to stop us from doing what we need to do: follow our souls! Any momentary unpleasantness is a small price to pay for the evolution of humankind.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would like to start a movement of dragon-riders — those that allow their healthy whole souls to transport them throughout their days, holding on no matter what the appearance of going up (success is up ahead!)… or going down (failure awaits!). When we are stuck in young developmental stages, we prefer one over the other. However, mature dragon-riders understand that it is not the direction we are momentarily heading in that matters. What is most important is this relationship with the whole of our souls and our willingness to go in any direction that leads the whole of us back to the whole of us.

Escaping the overwhelmingly traumatic experiences instigated by my overwhelmingly traumatized father has been my greatest motivation to do this work. I usher people to the truth of their traumatic lives so that they too are motivated to return to wholeness, both individually and collectively. Every trauma, mistake, or BAD HABIT can be employed for this evolutionary purpose. This is what soul-listening ever-teaches us. After all, optimal wellness, performance, and focus come only with the embracing and maturing of all that we are.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

I really like Bruce Lipton. He has a vital message for the world, which he delivers in such a down-to-earth, effective manner. I would love to have a meal with him where I might ask for his help in how to deliver my developmental message in a more impactful way.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

AnneRedelfs.com where you’ll find all my Social Media links, books, and videos.

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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