EP 72: Identifying and Addressing the Burdens of Individualism with Deran Young & Dick Schwartz

Uncategorized Feb 24, 2023


Rugged individualism occupies the heart of American mythology.

We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. We ignore structural inequality and rely on our “can do” attitudes. We take on the personal shame of job loss or bankruptcy or health struggles. 

And we unquestionably accept that to make it in America, all we need to do is work hard.

Are we happier and is our society stronger for all our self-reliance? Or does individualism exacerbate the political, social, and interpersonal issues that cause us all so much pain? And in what ways do we collude with this toxic myth as we lead and support others around us? 

In today’s leadership roundtable conversation, my guests discuss how addressing the cultural burden of individualism is a powerful place to start when looking to also address the cultural burdens of racism, sexism, and consumerism.

Deran Young is a licensed therapist, CDWF, CDTL, Co-Author of the New York Times Best Seller, You Are Your Best Thing, retired military officer, and the founder of Black Therapists Rock.

Black Therapists Rock is a nonprofit organization that mobilizes over 30,000 mental health professionals committed to reducing the psychological impact of systemic oppression and intergenerational trauma. Deran is a leading influencer and public figure committed to spreading mental health awareness and improving health equity.

Dr. Richard Schwartz began his career as a systemic family therapist and an academic. Grounded in systems thinking, Dr. Schwartz developed Internal Family Systems (IFS) in response to clients’ descriptions of various parts within themselves. A featured speaker for national professional organizations, Dr. Schwartz has published many books, including his latest book, No Bad Parts,  and over fifty articles about IFS.




Listen to the full episode to hear: 

  • Four cultural legacy burdens and how they impact everything from our personal lives to our government
  • How individualism helps perpetuate denial of systemic burdens
  • The difference between shame and guilt as we identify the burdens we carry
  • How addressing the parts of you that hold our cultural burdens can keep overwhelm and shame from activating
  • Why curiosity and compassion are not the same as complicity
  • Why clarity is the opposite of denial


Learn more about Deran Young:


Learn more about Dr. Richard Schwartz:


Learn more about Rebecca:

Scroll Down for The Full Episode Transcript:

[Inspirational Music]

Rebecca Ching: Rugged individualism occupies the heart of American mythology. We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. We ignore structural inequality and rely on our can-do attitudes. We take on the personal shame of job loss or bankruptcy or health struggles, and we unquestionably accept that to make it in America all we need to do is work hard. Are we happier and is our society stronger for our self-reliance or does individualism exacerbate the political, social, and interpersonal issues that cause us all so much pain, and in what ways do we collude with this toxic myth as we lead and support others around us?

I'm Rebecca Ching, and you're listening to The Unburdened Leader, the show that goes deep with humans who navigate life’s challenges and lead in their own ways. Our goal is to learn how they address the burdens they carry, how they learn from them and become better and more impactful leaders of themselves and others.

Racism, sexism, ableism, and all forms of oppression might seem like different problems all in need of their own solutions but shifting our dependence on the myth of individualism offers the start of a solution to all of them. When we address and heal the burden of individualism, we start to see beyond our own needs and the myth that we can do it all on our own if we try hard enough. Because individualism thrives on self-reliance, and so many of us grew up on a healthy dose of this message which leads us to believe needing others is deeply, deeply flawed. And our innate value becomes tied to our personal accomplishments (or lack thereof) which is based on a flawed narrative that what we achieve is based solely on our effort, conquering, and achieving.


I’m, like, feeling this. This is so my childhood. [Laughs] This way of living permeates our culture to weighing us down and pitting us against each other as we fight for what is “ours,” and following a so-called mandate to overcome any challenges we face in the world and within ourselves. As a result, individualism blocks our capacity to lead with vulnerability and sit with discomfort, difference, and conflict, and it also blocks our ability to experience connection and intimacy which are the spaces in which we heal and see our own humanity and the humanity in those around us.

So, when struggles surface like doubt and fear, we go to great lengths to hide this pain and end up suffering in silence, often seeing our struggles as a personal moral failing. And if we dare to share our pain (ugh, and I’m cringing as I share this) but we often receive responses that tell us we need to work on our upper limit problem or fix our self-sabotage, again, reinforcing that all the problems we have are solely an individual’s responsibility.

Now, I deeply value personal agency, but the messages of these common self-help responses leave us feeling worse, and if we fail to break through our upper limit, we’re left feeling defeated, feeling shame and blame towards ourselves and others, and this individualistic self-help lens is not trauma-informed, and instead traumatizes, only further entrenching the cultural burden of individualism we look at growing personally and professionally.


Now, I’m really grateful for this special leadership roundtable conversation today on the podcast where my guests look at how addressing the cultural burden of individualism is a powerful place to start when looking to also address the cultural burdens of racism, sexism, and consumerism.

Deran Young is a licensed therapist specializing in racial trauma and legacy burdens. She is also co-author of The New York Times Best Seller You Are Your Best Thing, and she’s also a retired military officer and founder of Black Therapists Rock, and Black Therapists Rock is an amazing organization. It’s a nonprofit with a network of over 30,000 mental health professionals committed to reducing the psychological impact of systemic oppression and intergenerational trauma.

And I’m so thrilled to welcome back Dr. Richard Schwartz to the podcast, and he began his career as a systemic family therapist and an academic. Grounded in systems thinking, Dr. Schwartz developed Internal Family Systems (otherwise known as IFS) in response to clients’ descriptions of various parts within themselves. He focused on the relationships among these parts and noticed that there were systemic patterns to the way they were organized across his clients, and he also found that when clients’ parts felt safe and were allowed to relax, the client would experience, spontaneously, the qualities of confidence, openness, and compassion that Dr. Schwartz came to call The Self. And he found that when in the state of Self, clients would know how to heal their parts. Dr. Schwartz is also a featured speaker for national professional organizations and has published many books, including his latest book No Bad Parts, along with over 50 articles about IFS.

Now, listen for Dick’s connection between the cultural burden of individualism and trauma, and notice when Deran shares how individualism leaves us feeling like we’re on our own to figure everything out, and pay attention to when Dick talks about clarity as the opposite of denial when identifying the cultural burdens we carry.


Now, please welcome Deran Young and Dr. Richard Schwartz to The Unburdened Leader podcast.

You all are in for a treat today. Please welcome back Dick Schwartz to The Unburdened Leader podcast and Deran Young, welcome to The Unburdened Leader for this really special roundtable.

Deran Young: Thank you for having us!

Dick Schwartz: Great to be with you again, Rebecca, and great to be with you, too, Deran.

Rebecca Ching: Really looking forward to digging in! And I’d just like to start off, Dick, talking about the four cultural legacy burdens that you’ve written about, that they don't only show up in us, individually, but also show up in our businesses, our organizations, and, yes, our government. You identified them as racism, patriarchy, materialism, and individualism, and I would love for you to walk me through how to identify and address these burdens in larger systems.

Dick Schwartz: Well, for me, they're all kind of related, and they're all related to trauma, actually. So, how to identify them: some of them are pretty evident and easy to identify, and then some are much more subtle. And so, if we take, for example, individualism which, you know, I like to make the analogy of an individual to a country, for example. How, in IFS, people who’ve had a lot of trauma wind up with a lot of, what we call, exiles which tend to be the parts that feel very weak and worthless and terrified and hurt, and any individual that has a lot of exiles is gonna have a lot of protectors and will have a lot of disdain for their exiles and will try their best to keep them exiled.


And if you take that and apply it to a country, any country with a history of a lot of trauma and then also with a lot of exiles is gonna have a lot of extreme protectors. And The United States now has probably more exiles than it’s ever had. I think I heard recently that 60% of the population lives paycheck-to-paycheck, and so, not only are there a lot of exiles, but there’s a huge gap, so there are lots and lots of rich people, too, and there is this constant sense among the exiles of resentment about that, of course.

So, people like Donald Trump become embodiments of all four of those legacy burdens, and kind of ironically, many of the exiles that are drawn to lean toward that protector, so these are all persistent and pernicious. If I were to focus on one for now it would be individualism and how both in individuals who suffer a lot of trauma and in countries like ours, that manifests as, “Look out for number one, and you can't trust anybody else,” and the key to being strong and making it is willpower.

And so, if you don't have willpower, then you’re weak and you’re distained, and if you’re failing it’s because you don't have willpower, and that’s really pervasive. And then that whole thing feeds racism because, historically, a traumatized population may not succeed as well because the legacy burdens it carries and is seen as weak and lazy and doesn't have enough willpower.


And so, I’m trying to tie those two together. Yeah, and you can do the same with the patriarchy, and then materialism is also the sense that because -- it’s the sense of fear of never having enough because you never know when something terrible’s gonna happen again which is a trauma-based kind of thing, too.

You know, I saw a study -- I think it was a survey of people whose average income was $16 million dollars, and they were asked, “Do you feel secure?” And they would say, “No.” “What would it take for you to feel secure?” It was like, “$64 million dollars.” So, there’s this abiding sense of insecurity that drives materialism also. In all of these, both are -- as is true with individuals -- self-reinforcing because the more you look out for number one and you don't look out for other people, you don't care about other people, and the more you feel rejected and then the more you’ve got to do that. The same is true for countries.

So, anyway, I’m just rattling on. Yeah, for me, they're all interconnected, and the important thing is to identify them in ourselves because you can’t grow up in this country without some degree of each of them.

Rebecca Ching: Mm-hmm.

Dick Schwartz: And then we can talk more about what to do once you’ve identified them.

Rebecca Ching: Yeah, I mean, in our foundations in Systems Theory, systems are made up of individuals, and so, that makes a lot of sense.

Deran, I’d love for your thoughts, too, on how you and your work identify and address these burdens in larger systems.


Deran Young: Yeah, as you kind of said earlier, being in IFS, you gain a lot of skills that you can take wherever you go. I feel so honored that I was able to be in the IFS community as a diversity consultant who could see different parts of things, who could learn different parts of the system, different parts of the community, what parts are needing what. I was able to take that learned skill into my work with Brené Brown, which I know a lot of your work is based on because you're also certified in Daring Way.

So, I got certified in Daring Way in 2017. I got certified in IFS maybe six months later. [Laughs] So, it was a lot of overlap around shame and vulnerability and these parts. Like I said, I initially started working with Brené as a partnership through Black Therapists Rock, and she, then, brought me on as one of the diversity consultants on her team to write her diversity mission statement, so that was really amazing. And that was all before George Floyd died. After George Floyd died, there were other opportunities like the opportunity for me to write a chapter in You Are Your Best Thing which is now a New York Times Best Seller.

So, I’ve been writing, I feel like, a lot about shame and intergenerational trauma and these cultural burdens, but I also see them show up in everyday life. As a Black woman raising a Black boy, I see them a lot in our public-school systems. Patriarchy, even if it’s ran by women, we’re kind of running it in a very dominant, masculine way. I love that Brené is also a feminist theory, so it’s taught me another lens to see the world though because all of my training up until now -- my retirement in the military, up until that point, everything was very masculinized.


You know, I learned a lot about trauma and CBT and CPT, a lot about the cognitive framework of understanding everything, but not really necessarily understanding how to value the heart, really, and I feel like Brené has really helped me understand, from a feminist perspective, that the heart is really important to value, that we have to value what people bring to work with them that’s on their heart, whether we feel like it’s connected to their performance at work or not, it almost always is.

So, to see that these parts show up at work, they show up in organizations, and I have now become -- my first Master’s degree, actually, is in public administration with a focus on human resources. So, I’m getting to really integrate my experience in the military when I was enlisted. I’m getting to really integrate that organizational way of thinking, the Systems way of thinking, and seeing parts of organizations, which parts are not working, or which parts are not being seen, which parts are not being heard. There are, oftentimes, various groups of people within an organization who feel like they need to be advocated for or their needs are not being met as far as showing up and being seen.

So, lately, I’ve been focusing on working with organizations as a consultant doing equity work and belonging. I tell people I don't really enjoy diversity work as much because, as Resmaa says, “Diversity’s a fact,” and if we’re at the point where were just now recognizing that you have different types of people in your organization, you have a long way to go, [Laughs] you know? But if you realize, “I have different people and they have different needs, and I don't know what I don't know,” that’s usually when I’m happy to be there to say, “Okay, here are some things that I see, and here are some things that could help this population, or these parts of the organization run a little better.” And I see cultural burdens in every single organization.


I think a lot of the leaders or founders of these organizations are surprised that, “Not me,” you know? “It could never happen in my organization! There’s no racism here!” 

Rebecca Ching: Mm.

Deran Young: Everybody wants to believe that racism is out there, and it’s definitely not in here, not inside of me, not in my home, not in my company, but it’s everywhere. We’re swimming in it, and we don't even know we’re wet. So, I get to go and point out some things that they probably haven't seen. It could be difficult sometimes, unless there’s a crisis like one of the clients I’m working with right now. If there’s a crisis, it’s very obvious, you know? That’s an opportunity for everyone to grow and learn as well, so I just feel really honored to do the work that I do and to meet the leaders that I meet, and I feel like IFS has been a core part of my learning and a core part of what I bring to the skills that I’ve developed.

Rebecca Ching: No question. I’m with you on that, too, especially with Brené’s work and IFS. I can’t do one without the other. [Laughs] They're so fused.

I’d love for you both to speak a little bit more specifically -- because I know there are leaders listening to this going, “Okay, racism, patriarchy, materialism, individualism. Yeah, I don't want that. I don't want to be that. I don't want that in my space,” and I’m wondering if you could talk through how folks can work through these burdens instead of maybe the more common reflex to fear them or just try to get rid of them, or, as we say in IFS, exile them. But I’d love for you to talk a little more specifically how you work with leaders or how leaders can work through these instead of trying to just get rid of them, deny them, or exile them.

Deran Young: For me, I think the first thing is coming out of denial, you know? I go to a lot of 12 Steps meetings, and in one 12 Step meeting, I heard that denial stands for: Don’t Even Notice I Am Lying. 

Rebecca Ching: Oh.

Dick Schwartz: Oh, that’s good.

Deran Young: You know? So, it’s really like this ignorance, this not wanting to know, this avoidance, like you said, or exiling of things that we’ve seen as children.


That’s one thing I also think is really interesting. My son plays with a very diverse group of children, and they're at our house all the time. So, we have Egyptian children at our house, we have Indian children, lots of Asian children here because he’s into anime and just different things that are culturally different from most African American boys, and what I see is that the children don't care. They don't care how much money you have. They don't care if you're a boy or a girl. “Do you play RoadBlocks or not?” [Laughs] “Do we have common interests?” They don't care about racism or any of these things. When I watch them playing together, it’s so pure and innocent and sweet, and I think that reminds me of how connected we are as human beings, that we always have things in common if we’re wanting to find that common ground.

And so, I think that, as children, we notice things and we’re forced to kind of put those things away or our parents tell us that we’re not seeing what we think we see. A lot of it is just conditioning, I think. But I always have to remind myself that it’s human nature to be connected to other humans, and the things that disconnect us are elements of protection (our parts). Those are our protectors trying to push something away or push something back that’s too painful or overwhelming to think about or feel. And so, I think our country has been pushing this stuff back. We haven't been talking about patriarchy. We haven't been talking about racism or materialism, and I think it’s mainly because of individualism. It’s, like, “Everyone’s on their own. Figure it out.” And if you're not figuring it out, it’s because something’s wrong with you.

So, I think these protectors, that’s where the shame and the vulnerability work has come in for me as well is sitting with the shame of not knowing for so many years or not wanting to go to face these things for so many years, and the shame underneath why we didn’t, underneath those protectors (if you will) or those exiles. But also, vulnerability.


In an individualistic world, it’s really challenging to be vulnerable, to be emotionally vulnerable when we’re told to be rugged, to be hard, to be tough all the time in all of the advertising that we see (the Marvel movies). Everything celebrates being tough, being armored, being indestructible, and that doesn't really go with vulnerability. So, just seeing that, you know? Just seeing all of those things, that people have real reasons why they're afraid to be vulnerable, and to at least acknowledge that the fear is there and then that these things are there, and that the denial is what keeps us from seeing it.

Rebecca Ching: You mentioned that we haven't been talking about these things. I will say, though, that there have been a lot of activists, I’m learning, that have been talking about these things for a long time, but just now those in power and dominant culture, waking up to these things. So, I want to make sure to note that. But when one of your clients is showing up in denial around one of these cultural legacy burdens, how do you work with that with them when they're just terrified of being identified? I see this with a lot of folks in white bodies. They’re terrified of being identified as racist or sexist and say, “I love everybody!” How do you help them work through that, especially through your IFS lens?

Deran Young: I will say that Dick has really taught me it’s helpful to see something as a part.

Dick Schwartz: Mm-hmm.

Deran Young: When it’s all of you, it feels overwhelming, you get defensive, it feels like crushing a little bit I think when someone says, “You are racist.” But if I say, “A part of you is racist,” that’s easier to digest for whatever reason. I think it maybe is because then, your dignity is still intact, your character and community is intact.

Dick Schwartz: Right. Right.

Deran Young: Who you are as a being is still present, and so, I really love the both/and model too. It’s like, “Yes, you love everyone, and a part of you is racist.” [Laughs] So, what do you think, Dick?

Rebecca Ching: Mm-hmm?


Dick Schwartz: Yeah, I agree with everything you're saying. You know, Brené makes this distinction, that I think is important, between shame and guilt, and that shame implies you're a bad person, and guilt implies you’ve done something bad that you need to be accountable for. And so much of denial is because you're so afraid of being shamed, and the parts that carry that level of shame and worthlessness are terrified sort of viscerally because we all know if we’re worthless, as children we knew this inherently that we would die, so there’s a kind of survival terror that comes that’s shame.

Rebecca Ching: Mm-hmm.

Dick Schwartz: And so, the denying part’s our natural reaction to that possibility, and from my point of view, too many activists try to use shame to get people to change, and it really backfires. And so, yeah, as you were saying, Deran, number one, the idea that it’s just a part, not the word “just” to minimize its influence or a problem with its behavior, but that it isn't all of you (it doesn't define your character) is a big relief to many people and frees them up to be able to talk about that part because you can't grow up in this culture without having some level of white supremacy belief system. In people of color, that can manifest as self-hate. In white people, that manifests as white supremacy.

Rebecca Ching: Mm.

Dick Schwartz: And so then, what do you do with that and what do you do with the part? So, unfortunately, for me, too often the anti-racism approach has been to try to get people to either lock it away again or it’s a kind of cognitive -- just argue with whatever comes up, which, you know, is better than blending with it.


But my advocacy is to help people focus on the part that carries that burden of racism that manifests as thoughts about people of color and go to it with curiosity and begin to unburden in the way we do with all kinds of other burdens. And once you can do that, you don't have to wrestle with it so much because it’s not so much in your system.

But Deran is saying to get to that point where you can actually go and get curious about it and try to help it transform, you have to get over this terror of shame.

Rebecca Ching: That requires an increase in capacity for vulnerability.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah.

Rebecca Ching: And that in itself is the pre-work. With some of the language we use in IFS, right, as we befriend these parts, right -- and I’ve got some clients who are like, “Um, no, I’m not befriending racism.” I’m like, “No, You're not befriending racism. You're befriending this part of you that’s holding this worldview so you can get to know it and help it transform.” I’m wondering if you would add to any of that and that process because, again, there’s still this -- I want to talk a little more about polarities that come up around, “I want to do this, but I don't want to do this,” too. So, how do we navigate the polarity around moving through these cultural burdens?

Deran Young: Can I also say something that I often --

Rebecca Ching: Yeah.


Deran Young: -- emphasize is that Self energy. Like you said, vulnerability can be really hard in the beginning in helping folks get to know their Self or extending our own Self energy to them. I sometimes get a lot of flak for being kind to people in the face of racial events in organizations or, you know, things that are happening, power dynamics in organizations. I’ll purposely try to be curious about it or extend my compassion for how hard it is for leaders, in general, to hold so many responsibilities in things like that. And I think just getting folks in tune with their own Self energy or feeling it from you can feel really different and invite more vulnerability, more connection, really.

So, I always try to remember to take my 8 C’s everywhere I go, you know, and make sure that I’m not operating from a part of me that has internalized racism or internalized white supremacy culture. That’s another big piece of my work is helping BIPOC professionals really see themselves as more than just their color, you know? That they, too, are human and have a common humanity that’s worth being valued and honored. And so, getting them to see some of the parts of them that they may not have noticed are there because they used it to survive, you know? Parts are about survival so when you said, “You're befriending the little part of you that held that worldview,” we also have to remember that legacy burdens are passed down and around, and if you're a little kid, and you're swimming in this society that’s wet, and you don't know that you’re wet, you have to extend some compassion to that little one inside that just did what it was told to do, what it learned to do to survive. That’s for all of us. We’re living in a very sick system, you know?

Rebecca Ching: Mm-hmm.

Deran Young: And so, I think just having a lot of compassion for what we have to go through every day and what our kiddos are going through, and what our system has been through, and all of us as part of that system.

Rebecca Ching: I appreciate you bringing that up, Deran, because a lot of times I hear people conflate curiosity and compassion with kind of being complicit or being a walk-over.


But if I’m hearing you correctly (which I totally agree with) is that when you're accessing that compassion and courage in you for what you just witnessed and what’s going on in front of you, that almost co-regulates the system. That not only helps your system get some space, but that’s a contagion for the better to the person that you're talking to. Did I hear that right?

Deran Young: Absolutely, yep.

Rebecca Ching: Yeah, that’s beautiful. Anything you want to add, Dick?

Dick Schwartz: What I would add is the fear of being complicit by being compassionate. Well, Deran talked about compassion and curiosity, and there’s also courage and clarity and confidence are part of the 8 C’s as well. And so, if I were to be with somebody and they said something that was clearly racist, I would call them out, but I would do it with those three C’s, and Self can be quite forceful, but also with compassion. When you do it, if you challenge somebody from that place, they feel far less shamed because they --

Rebecca Ching: You got it.

Dick Schwartz: -- sense the compassion that’s still there, the sense of connection to them, and the message isn’t that you're a bad person. It’s that, “Okay, you have this blind spot, and I really want you to look at it and work with it, but I still have caring for you,” and that’s too often what’s missing I think, as Deran was saying, in the activist world.


Rebecca Ching: I really appreciate you naming that. I remember you brought that up when you first came on the podcast, Dick, the forcefulness and the energy of confidence, courage, and clarity, that it isn't this passive. There is a, “No, not okay,” but it’s not remiss of connection within and with the other, and it’s not led by shame, but it’s led by Self-leadership. We can talk about it, but it’s almost something you have to kind of feel and live through to kind of connect with a practice with.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah.

Rebecca Ching: But it’s really nuanced, but when you're in it, once you have that place -- and, again, with courage, you can't have courage, to me, without a little bit of fear or else it’s not courage. And so, there is this point of some vulnerability in that place, but it’s standing aligned. And so, I think that’s something that a lot of leaders wrestle with on and how to name those things because they're worried about the backlash from the other or of doing more harm or of disrupting. From a place of Self-leadership, they're less worried about that then they are of what’s right and wrong while still holding the relationship. So, I really appreciate that.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah, and since we were talking about denial earlier, clarity is the opposite of denial.

Rebecca Ching: [Laughs]

Dick Schwartz: And so, once you’ve unburdened your denying part and you’ve had that clarity, you can’t help but see injustice and imbalance, and once you see it and you have access to courage and also once you see it and you have compassion for the people who are being hurt by the injustice, then you're motivated to act in the outside world.

[Inspirational Music]

Rebecca Ching: Leading is hard. Leading is also, often, controversial as you navigate staying aligned to your values, your mission, your boundaries. Navigating the inevitable controversy can challenge your confidence, clarity, and calm. Now, I know you don’t mind making the hard decisions, but sometimes the stakes seem higher and can bring up echoes of old doubts and insecurities during times when you need to feel rock solid on your plan and action.


Finding a coach who gets the nuances of your business and leading in our complex and, often, polarized world can help you identify the blocks that keep you playing at safe and small.

Now, leading today is not a fancy title or fluffy bragging rights. It is brave and bold work to stay the course when the future is so unknown and the doubts and pains from the past keep showing up to shake things up. Internal emotional practices and systemic strategies are needed to keep the protector of cynicism at bay and foster a hope that is both actionable and aligned. So, when the stakes are high and you don't want to lose focus, when you want to navigate inevitable conflict between your ears and with those you lead, when time is of the essence and you want to make hard decisions with confidence and clarity, then Unburdened Leader Coaching is for you, where you deepen the capacity to tolerate the vulnerability of change, innovation, and doing things differently than the status quo.

To start your Unburdened Leader Coaching process with me, go to www.rebeccaching.com and book a free connection call. I can't wait to hear from you!

[Inspirational Music]

I’d love for you both, if your systems will give you permission, to share a little bit about how you address the polarities that come up when addressing these cultural legacy burdens especially as you lead your respective organizations. So, IFS-I for you, Dick, and Black Therapists Rock for you, Deran. 

Deran Young: I think what’s really been helping me lately, when I first came on to Black Therapists Rock as the leader, I had to acknowledge and realize that it was a part of me that created Black Therapists Rock.


It was a very protected, angry, bitter part of me that was isolated. At the time, I was in the military, and I was stationed in Italy, and I just felt culturally isolated. And so, that part of me is what kind of created this community of people who needed to connect around cultural identity. I soon realized, though, that the community needed a leader, you know, and if I was just there seeking my own support, then who was gonna lead the community or the organization.

So, I got trained in Dare to Lead in 2019, and that has really -- I’ve always seen myself as a leader in the military, and I‘ve received awards and trainings and a lot of support around being a leader in the military, but we lead differently in the military versus in the mental health sector, hopefully. And I learned in Dare to Lead that who we are is how we lead, and at times, I had a polarization in the military that you couldn't be too soft, you couldn't be too caring, you couldn't be too kind. And so, I had really exiled the parts of me that were gentle and compassionate and understanding and saw those as a weakness in the military. Now, coming into the mental health space and working with other organizations and other leaders as a Dare to Lead facilitator, really, compassion has been my best gift. It’s been my best leadership quality.

And so, just going back to the idea that who we are is how we lead, and if you're leading from a protector, are you really leading at all, you know? If you're not leading from your true Self, is that leadership or is it just management? Is it a manager that’s trying to manage other managers, you know? [Laughs]

Dick Schwartz: Mm-hmm.

Deran Young: And it’s a lot of work to manage managers is why I realize I was exuding so much effort and a lot of emotional labor trying to be something different than what I truly was.


And so, yeah, I think just being authentic in my leadership has really helped guide me, and leading with my heart. Knowing that leading with my heart is actually a really good thing, that I can love people, and I can be with them and learn with them, and they can learn from me, and it doesn't have to be this power-over dynamic, that it can definitely be a power with.

Rebecca Ching: Yeah.

Deran Young: Really empowering people, to me, is a deeper level of healing, and like I said, I take these skills with me everywhere I go now. So, I feel like I practice the most in my own organization, but then I get to share that with other leaders so they can have it in their organizations as well.

Dick Schwartz: Well, my story is similar in the sense that we’d been talking about shame and worthlessness, and I came out of my family of origin with a lot of heavily-burdened exiles who, because I wasn't a good student (in retrospect, I probably had undiagnosed ADD), and my father was a very high-powered physician researcher, I got a lot of messages from him that I wasn't valuable and that I was lazy. And so, I don't think IFS would exist if I didn't have that background because all of that motivated a part of me to take over and prove him wrong by developing this, and it was a big motivator. I mean, I had worked my butt off to bring this. And, at some point, sort of like what Deran was saying, I became the leader of a community, and the part of me that drove me to create it wasn't really good at leading a community because it didn't give a shit, you know?


It didn't care what people thought, that part, because I got a lot of attack as I was bringing this, and it had to be armored that way. It really wanted accolades. It really wanted this constant drumbeat of, “Oh, you're great. You're so great since you’ve done this.” That was one of the big motives to counter the worthlessness which, again, it’s like a bucket with a hole in it. The external accolades don’t ever fill it up, and so, you just need more and more.

And so I was lucky and remain lucky to have people in the community who could call me out and do it from Self so that I didn't have to be as defensive as I might have been, and if I’m proud of anything it’s that I listened, that I started to work on these parts. And so, now, to whatever extent people say I’m humble, it’s pretty genuine. I don't do this for those same motives. I do it much more because of the vision, the possibility of what IFS can do to the world.

We were talking earlier about what drives a lot of people who seek power or who get into positions of power, and it is these protectors. I think a lot of why our country is screwed up is because they're running things and don't have a lot of Self-leadership. It works for them because those parts, like mine, are really good at certain things and can get to high levels of achievement of power.


Rebecca Ching: Absolutely. Absolutely. I’m hard pressed to think of anyone who started a business or an organization that wasn't parts or manager led.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah.

Rebecca Ching: I’m just having a, like, “Yes, I’m going to --,” and the work really is these beautiful managers that are doing their job for us and can create something pretty incredible, but it also can do harm. And then the transition when the leaders start to mature and heal and grow, that you both named, then starts to shift how you lead. And so, then, bringing it to real time for both of you, kind of where your organizations are now, and again just bringing it back to these cultural legacy burdens, how are you addressing the polarities that inevitably come up within your organizations, within yourself as you're leading?

Dick Schwartz: Yeah, well, I didn't want to imply that I’m done with that process. 

Rebecca Ching: [Laughs] Fair enough. Me neither.

Dick Schwartz: I just met, yesterday, with our CEO Katie, and my wife Jean was a part of it and our consultants and tried to plot out the future. There are lots and lots of opportunities coming now because IFS has gotten very popular, and I do have this vision of bringing it to the culture, to not just have it be a big part of psychotherapy, but to actually -- wouldn't it be cool if it became a kind of replacement paradigm for the way we understood ourselves and the way we related to ourselves.

And so, that vision is driving me, and I can get way out ahead of the headlights in terms of what my CEO Katie is trying to do, which is to establish a foundation from which we can grow and hire the right people. And so, she’s pushing back on that part of me a lot. So, we did get into that polarization yesterday.


We did really well until it got almost to the end of the meeting, and that part of me took over, and it can be very pouty and speak in this way dripping with, I wouldn't say contempt, but some kind of disapproval even though I’m not saying anything really mean or anything. Everybody in the room knows that I’m in that part. You know, luckily, I’m married to somebody who can call me out. She did, and that’s just to say that there are built-in polarizations in businesses, organizations like that one, and if my wife hadn’t been there, we could have just left the meeting that way, and I would have felt terrible. So, even though I’ve been working on myself for all these years and I’m very aware of my parts, I can still have a part-attack like that.

Rebecca Ching: A part-attack! [Laughs]

Dick Schwartz: [Laughs]

Rebecca Ching: Oh, we’ll be doing this work ‘til we breathe our last breath. I say that to myself and to everyone I work with. That’s baseline. But there is an evolution, so thank you for sharing that. And it’s such a great example of who we surround ourselves with personally and professionally who can, as Brené says, often speak truth to bullshit with love and respect. Yeah, I think that’s a great example.

Deran, I’d love to hear what’s coming up for you right now with where you're at with Black Therapists Rock as you're leading your organization and addressing polarities while navigating the cultural legacy burdens that are still infecting and impacting your community.

Deran Young: Yeah, I think my biggest challenge is materialism as a nonprofit leader, [Laughs] you know?


Nonprofits have to go out and beg for money and show our worth and prove our worth a lot (I feel like hustle for our worth, as Brené says), and then show that we’re worthy of the tax deduction, you know? [Laughs] All of the things that come with that. So, I feel like nonprofits tend to get exiled a lot. And things that are activities in the organization that don't immediately produce a profit sometimes are pushed aside as not as important or not a priority, and I see that a lot when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion. For me, I stand true on the fact that without people, you don't have profit. That was why I chose to get my first Master’s degree in public administration versus business administration because I believe without people, you don't have profit. And you can't have progress without people. So, taking care of the people and making sure they all have what they need to help you get to the profit is my number one thing.

And so, when I go into organizations and they're talking about how much things cost, “Diversity is expensive,” I tell them, “Lack of diversity is more expensive, in my opinion, to your reputation as a business, as a corporation, and as a leader.” So, I see these polarizations between profit and people, and it always makes me a little frustrated. I have parts around it that are like,

“Don't you see that they're both very equally important?” But we also live in a world where nothing is free, you know? I had to help my ten-year-old son understand why we pay per watt. You know, because children are really smart. Like I said, they come to the world with this pure innocence and just being whole and so intact, and then they get conditioned into splitting parts of themselves all over the world.


But, yeah, with toilet tissue, someone said, “You can't even wipe your butt for free,” you know? You have to keep the lights on.

So, I acknowledge that leaders are torn between making the money and doing all that we can, squeezing every drop of energy out of every person to support the mission, but also wanting to care for people in that process, and those are two very difficult things to balance, so I try really hard to balance that in my work. I will say, as a nonprofit leader, I tend to air on the other side of people versus profit, and that doesn't hurt me as much as a nonprofit leader, but it can. Even in nonprofits we have expenses, we have things that -- we have to pay people [Laughs] to do the things that we need done as well. So, I’ve had to really come to terms with operating in the system I live in, if you will. Not pretending that these burdens aren't there, which I can tend to do sometimes and tell myself that it doesn't matter. It definitely matters when you live in The United States of America. Money definitely --

Rebecca Ching: Yeah.

Deran Young: The more money you have in this system the more access to resources you have. That’s just the system that we live in. So, coming to terms with all those things on a daily basis, like you said, is the work that I will probably do until I take my last breath.

Rebecca Ching: And even these systems and how they're set up, they kind of set us up to fail in many ways, too, and they keep cycling in it, too, so it’s a tough one. But thanks for naming that.

I’d love to dig a little deeper with the both of you, too, and hear from you about a time when you specifically made a change in how you lead in your respective organizations due to shifts in your beliefs and values that was not received well. But it was something you had to do because of what you felt was right. I’m curious how you navigated the pushback, and would you do anything differently as you looked back? I don't know who wants to go first on that one.


Deran Young: So, we do an annual IFS training that’s predominantly with Black Therapists Rock. I have gotten a lot of flak for having -- we allow five allies. We have five seats for allies. We have a scholarship for five Black therapists, but we also have five allies in the room with us, and then all the rest is BIPOC, and I have been so adamant to that because of my personal mission statement about passion for diversity but also dedicated to unity. We don't live in a segregated world, you know? I want for every Black therapist who wants a therapist, I want them to not just only have Black therapists available who can see and hear them. But I want other people in other bodies to be able to see and hold space for them as well. There aren't that many Black therapists in the world, so we’re gonna need other therapists to have those skills, and I think that we do that best in working together around all of these parts in community with these parts.

I also think that corrective experiences can’t happen if we’re all divided in separate silos, you know? I need to be with other people to have that corrective experience in my system and to know what it feels like for something different to happen, for unity to be present, and to notice when someone is in it with me versus me continuously fighting every white person, every white bodied-person that I come across or mistrusting every white-bodied person because of the body that they operate in.

So, I’ve gotten a lot of criticism for that big mission that I have and that big vision, but I stand on it so wholeheartedly. I really stand on it.

Rebecca Ching: Mm. 

Deran Young: Because that’s the future that I want to see in the world, you know? I want to create the world that I want to see.

So, the way that I’ve been able to work with the criticism is to hear it, to acknowledge the validity in it. When people of color say it’s really hard to do our work in front of white people, I acknowledge that that is true and that people have died trying to do that, that it’s a very real fear, and it will always be there if we’re not brave enough, and we don't have enough courage to move beyond those fears and to operate from Self.


So, I’m fierce about this vision and this mission. It’s extremely important to me that we operate in this way, and Brené also says, “Gritty faith and gritty facts,” you know? I have faith that the world will be less racist one day, and I have to have that faith, and I have to believe it every day because I’m raising a soon-to-be Black man. So, that’s what keeps me going, you know? Having your values, knowing what you value. My values are legacy, laughter, and learning, and the value of legacy, it drives most of what I do, you know? The fact that we’re talking about legacy burdens now and so much of my work is about legacy and legacy burdens and legacy gifts. We don't talk enough; I think about legacy gifts.

Rebecca Ching: Yes.

Deran Young: Through all of the Civil Rights movements, through all of history, there has always been all kinds of people who come together despite racism, despite gender, despite class, despite sexual orientation. People have come together to support one another and human rights. I think that that’s extremely important if we want to have the legacy gift of collective wisdom and community.

Rebecca Ching: Mm. Thank you for sharing that, Deran. I didn't know about some of those choices that you made in BTR. I’ve heard about the frustration or concern around it. So, I just feel that in my body, the truth and the love and the commitment to that. So, thank you so much for sharing that.

How about you, Dick? How about you respond?

Dick Schwartz: Well, first, I want to thank you also, Deran, because I have known about some of the pushback, and we wouldn't probably have the level of collaboration we have without you standing strong in that way.

Rebecca Ching: Yeah.

Dick Schwartz: So, I’m very grateful, and it’s been so enriching for, I think, both communities but for sure for the IFS community that we have this collaboration.


So, one example would be with the pandemic we couldn't do in-person trainings anymore, and so, there was a feeling like the trainings won't work online. You have to be together and feel the safety in the room and Self energy in the room. And so, a lot of the trainers had a lot of trouble with my and some of the other leaders' decisions on that which was, “Let’s try it. Let’s just see.” It turns out that in some ways, it can be better actually, but we had to really stand strong and, without shaming anybody, just really push for them to give it a shot. I have to say that some trainers didn't go for it and cut way back on the number of trainings because what I’ve heard is that while the students really like it and like being able to do it from home, as you and I are looking at each other, you can see in the training you're way across the room when there’s a demo happening. You don't really see the person doing it. When it’s like this, you can really feel for what they're going through, but it isn’t as enjoyable for the trainers to do it online. So, just a lot of the negotiations back and forth. That’s one that came to mind. 

Rebecca Ching: Yeah, I appreciate you naming that, and I’ve heard that being in trainings -- obviously before the pandemic and then since the pandemic, I’ve been able to actually do a lot more because I’ve got a family, and I’m able to stay engaged in a lot more. I’ve heard the feedback from the participants, that they’ve been able to afford the training because they didn't have to pay for travel, so accessibility. And also, acknowledging there are a couple trainings I’ve been in this fall where I’m like, “Ah, I wish we could all just hug each other,” you know?

Dick Schwartz: Yeah.


Rebecca Ching: So, missing some of that real human connection, but sitting with the tension that it isn't just about me but continuing to further your mission. Then some trainers I’ve heard, they will constantly repeat, “Oh, I wish we were in person,” or hybrid working, you name it.

Dick Schwartz: Mm-hmm.

Rebecca Ching: That’s a really interesting polarity, too, that’s happening real-time. So, thank you. Thank you for sharing that.

I’d love for you both to talk about your definition of success and how it’s changed from when you both respectively founded Internal Family Systems and the IFS-I and BTR to today.

Deran Young: Yeah, in the military, success was all about trophies and awards, and I have a whole lot of those. [Laughs] I look at my bookcase sometimes, and I’m just like, “Wow.” Once upon a time, my whole existence was striving to be validated and to be seen professionally.” Especially as a Black woman, I like to honor those parts of me that feel like I needed to be twice as good or work twice as hard to get half as far. I looked up when I retired at 35 with two Master’s degrees after spending all these decades in the military, and I realized that those parts had been working so hard that they couldn't even take time to appreciate what had been accomplished.

So, with Black Therapists Rock, I started off kind of that way like let’s just do a whole lot of stuff and show the world that we’re capable and we’re here. And now, I’ve learned to really slow down and savor some of these experiences and really reflect on them and be in community with both in a real present way. I think that that’s just more Self energy on board.


It’s the more I work on my parts that think they need external validation, that need to hustle for their worth, the more I’m able to just be in my body and be in the world, really, be in the moment, be in experience, be with my son, be with people, be with myself in my quiet time which I never had the luxury or privilege of that before. Now, I just turned 40 this year, and I feel like my body is slowing down, right? I don't have a thyroid. My thyroid was removed about three or four years ago. And so, everything in me is about slowing down now. It’s like you can't continue to go at that pace.

One of the things that I’ve realized in teaching Dare to Lead as a Dare to Lead facilitator, we have this saying in the military where we say, “Don't eat your young.” Don’t eat your young because you need to be a mentor. You need to have a mentor. You need to have people that are gonna replace you, and you need to see someone that you want to replace because everybody’s gonna be replaced at some point. And so, when we eat our young, there’s no one to replace us, but when we invest in the next generation of leaders, we have lots of people who are ready and equipped with the skills that we’ve learned and we’re able to share that generational wisdom or those legacy gifts and the things that just keep on growing and going is what I say. So, just taking time to invest in other people while investing in myself [Laughs] so that I have something to invest has felt really important as I'm shifting into more of my leadership capacities.

Rebecca Ching: Mm. Thank you, Deran.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah, congratulations on turning 40, Deran. When I turned 60 they said, “60 is the new 40,” and it kind of felt that way, and now that I’m over 70, 70 is just fucking 70. [Laughs] It’s just old.

Rebecca Ching: [Laughs] No trophies for 70.


Dick Schwartz: No. But in terms of the question, in addition to what I already said about my motives and accolades and so on, initially, to give the whole story, my father, again, was the head of medicine at this big medical center, got me a job, when I was in college, on a psych unit for adolescents, and I would get very close to these kids, and I would be in the dayroom when their families would come to visit. I would see the families scapegoating the hell out of them, and I would hear about their psychoanalytic sessions where the families were not even mentioned, and I thought, “There’s got to be a better way to do this.” And so, my initial motives were around changing psychotherapy and healing, and that led me to family therapy which, then, led me to the parts work. And so, for many, many years, and particularly when I ran into what we call Self, that’s just beneath the surface and has all these wonderful qualities and knows how to heal, my eyes were on the prize of changing psychotherapy.

Then, as that started to happen, the shift lately in the guidance lately has much more been to, as I said earlier, to expand the goal to changing the paradigm. With that shift in paradigm, would come changes at all levels of culture, change all those legacy burdens, those four legacy burdens of others we talked about and would change political dialogues.


And so, my goals these days are to (like we were talking about that United America company) partner with people who can bring us to higher levels of system. So, you know, we piloted trainings for executive coaches, and we’re gonna start a training for social activists.

And so, having an impact at that level now, now that I am in my seventies and maybe I have ten more active years (maybe more, we’ll see), that goal has really, really broadened enormously for me. And that’s part of why I got into it with Katie is because, okay, maybe I’ve got ten years, and I really want to take this as far as I can before I stop.

Rebecca Ching: Mm. Thank you for that, Dick. Yeah, I don't know, I’m convinced that we’re all gonna be living a little bit longer and more vitally. That’s my hope is this work is gonna help us be able to do that. Thank you.

Thank you both for this conversation. I feel like there’s so much follow-up I’d want to do, and this could be a whole day workshop. Dick and Deran, thank you so much for taking the time for this conversation. It’s one I’ve wanted to have for a long time, and I know you both have full schedules, so, really, it’s been an honor. This was a really rich conversation. I know many listening are gonna get a lot out of it, and so, I’m just really grateful to know you both, grateful for your impact, not only on my life, but on so many. So, this was a real honor. Thank you.

Deran Young: Yeah, thanks for having us.

Dick Schwartz: Yeah, it’s always great to talk to both of you guys.

Rebecca Ching: If you grew up in Western modern culture, especially here in America, you probably carry the burden of individualism, and individualism blocks our capacity to lead with vulnerability.


It also blocks our ability to experience intimacy. Now, today’s powerful conversation with Dick Schwartz and Deran Young brought to light the impact of the cultural burdens of racism, sexism, consumerism, and individualism on all of us, whether we’re aware of this impact or not. And they noticed how focusing on addressing the cultural burden of individualism is a powerful and impactful place to start in addressing them all.

So, I’m curious. What did you grow up believing about yourself if you struggled, and how do you think individualism impacts how you lead today, and what comes to mind when you reflect on denial being the opposite of clarity? Yes, the cultural legacy burdens discussed in today’s episode are big topics that, to be honest, many turn away from. But leaders like you who dare to lead in ways that further dignity, healing, and community are up for the challenge, and this is the work of an unburdened leader.

Thank you so much for joining this episode of The Unburdened Leader. If this episode impacted you, I’d be honored if you went ahead and left a review, a rating, and shared it with someone who you think would benefit from it. You can find this episode, show notes, and ways to sign up for the free Unburdened Leader weekly email, along with ways to work with me at www.rebeccaching.com.

[Inspirational Music]


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