Dr. Rebecca Heiss is a science-backed leadership and performance expert, driving teams to excel through change and engage ALL-IN. Author of Instinct: Rewire your Brain with Science Backed Solutions to Increase Productivity“ “As a biologist and stress expert, I work with individuals and organizations to transform mindsets from fear (of change, growth, rejection, & failure) to awe and adventure.”
Alison Martin: Hi, Jean.
Jean Trebek: Hi, Alison.
Alison Martin: How are you?
Jean Trebek: I’m great. How are you?
Alison Martin: I’m pretty good. I had a very, very busy week, and.
Jean Trebek: We both did.
Today we’re going to introduce you to Rebecca Heiss. And we loved her. I thought she was just great. She wrote a book called Instinct: Rewire Your Brain with Science Backed Solutions to Increase Productivity and Achieve Success. And I literally could not put this book down. She shows you a lot of what evolution has left us with, like fear or gender roles or things like this, and how you can overcome that to really benefit yourself, your work environment and your family. It’s amazing.
Jean Trebek: She she also offers, which I was doing online, this Fear(less) modules. It’s a class she gives you every day. She presents new things to consider. And it’s about eight minutes every day. And it’s brilliant. You know, she talks about that the brain does not know the difference between something that’s real and something that’s imaginary.
Alison Martin: Right… which is so interesting because then you’re really in control. You are really in control.
Jean Trebek: And staying present…Staying present. She gives tips on a healthy brain and I think everyone we’ve ever spoken to, everyone that talks about healthy brain always talks about the importance of sleep.
Alison Martin: Yes. So I’m going to lay down. You shall finish this interview. Well, here she is. We think you’re going to love her. Here’s Rebecca.
Rebecca Heiss: It’s so nice to meet you all.
Jean Trebek: It’s so great to meet you.
Alison Martin: We’re chatting about your book and your modules.
Rebecca Heiss: Get out of here. Oh, my gosh, that makes me feel so good. Are you enjoying it so far?
Alison Martin: I well, I love this book. I read a lot of books. And the way we get through them is, I say 50 pages a day. You know, but I couldn’t put this one down.
Rebecca Heiss: Oh. Thank you. That means so much. Gosh.
Alison Martin: You’re exactly my type of person. Because you’re based in science. And I find it fascinating that then you talk about your personal things and make it be, from my point of view, a little more spiritual.
Rebecca Heiss: I’m with you on that. I’m with you on that. This is my first book. I learned a lot, including sometimes we have some compromises that we need to make when we go with a publisher. Love them. Don’t want to speak poorly of them, but yeah, for the next one, think… Think they’ll be a little more, as I like to call it, the woo woo is slipping in.
Alison Martin: That’s good.
Jean Trebek: You know, I think, Rebecca, and I’m Jean by the way.
Alison Martin: I’m Alison. Hi.
Rebecca Heiss: Hi, Jean. Hi, Alison. It’s nice to meet you all. Well, I was on at 9:00 this morning because dum dum here could not figure out time zones. And then I was like, no, no, this is this is not right. We got to figure it out.
Alison Martin: Where are you?
Rebecca Heiss: Well, I was on the West coast yesterday and then flew home today. I’m in Greenville, South Carolina today, so I’m back home with my sleeping dog.
Jean Trebek: So cute.
Rebecca Heiss: That’s goodness. Always at my side.
Jean Trebek: Well, what I wanted to say is that I’m noticing that science and spirituality are really showing up more and more together that they’re honoring each other. So I love that.
Rebecca Heiss: I couldn’t agree more. I don’t know where you are in the book or don’t even remember if I put this in the book, but one of my spiritual awakenings was recognizing, like, how little we see until we start paying attention to it. And, you know, I studied birds and taking the bird under UV light for the first time. And I was like, oh my gosh, there’s so many patterns and colors that we just don’t see and that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist or it’s not real. It’s that we don’t have the tools to measure it or the ability to see it as humans. And so often I think, you know, science and spirituality are this are this magical mystery of going, okay, we don’t have the tools, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not happening or that it’s not out there. And so as a scientist, like that’s part of the fun for me. It’s like, that’s exciting. Like, can we find a tool? Can we find a way? And if we can’t, okay. It still can be real. So yeah.
Alison Martin: In your modules online you share about going, I think it was to San Juan and not knowing what to do. And I was like, yes. And I still don’t even know if I know what my therapist said, “well, what what’s fun for you?” And I’m like, me alone? I don’t know. Jean has this thing where she can be doing something in a city alone, and I’m always like, wow, look at that. What do you think?
Rebecca Heiss: Yeah. Alison, that’s fascinating because my sister and I had this same conversation today. This Is still something I struggle with of like, okay, I, I’m super, super lucky. I’ve been incredibly lucky in my life and don’t have to work. Right. So. Well, what do I want? What do I want to do? Like what brings me joy? And I think for so long, you know, and no fault of our parents or anybody trying to nurture us, but it’s like, okay, you need to survive. You need to achieve this. You need to get this. You need to get the house. You need to get the things so that you’re secure. But we’re never coached on like, then what? Like, well, now I’ve got the things so….? It is really hard to tap into that self.
Alison Martin: How did you how did you solve that for yourself. Have you found your stuff that brings you joy?
Rebecca Heiss: Yeah, it’s an ongoing journey, honestly. I’ll tell you, Alison, I’m still not there. Every day I wake up and I’m like, all right, how does it feel today? And I think so much of it is tapping back into that intuition, not having to be science led, not having to have the exact answer and just going – this feels good. Let me do more of that. And then when it stops feeling good – okay, back off. You don’t have to. You know, again, I think, we live in a society where if it’s good, then more is obviously better. And, um, and that’s not the case. So, less and less and less and less has been my secret. The less stuff I have, the less I travel, the less I do, the more I find peace. That’s been and being able to tap back into – Oh right, this is what brings me joy. Right. Yeah. It’s hard though I think.
Alison Martin: Is it the should?
Rebecca Heiss: Those shoulds? Yeah.
Alison Martin: I know like for me, I live with a lot of shoulds. Do you?
Jean Trebek: I’m really trying not to. Like being aware of when when I say to myself- Am I doing this out of inspiration, obligation or desperation?
Rebecca Heiss: Oh, that is so good. Yeah, he says. Wait, inspiration… desperation… Or what was the other one?
Jean Trebek: Obligation.
Rebecca Heiss: Obligation. I’m writing that down. That’s good.
Jean Trebek: And if you’re doing something out of obligation, just own it.
Rebecca Heiss: Yeah..
Jean Trebek: Okay, I’m going to take my mom to the dentist. I’m not wired, but I’m not desperate.
Alison Martin: Do you still live by shoulds at all, Rebecca?
Rebecca Heiss: Oh, sure. Yeah. Listen, I’d love to say I’m completely free of it, but I’m not. That wouldn’t be honest. I hear a lot of shoulds now. I think the difference is I’ve become very conscious of them. And so now it’s more of my choice. And I’m going, you should. Well, should you? Do you have to? Is it obligation? Right? And then it becomes actually I really like this framework. Well it’s an obligation. It’s an obligation. You know, it’s not it’s nothing inspired about, you know, having to go to the gym and having to lift weights. But I do feel better and I know that I will. And so tricking my brain into remembering the feeling that I’ll have when I’m done. That is kind of the inspiration to do the shoulds that feel like obligations to me.
Jean Trebek: Right, yeah.
Alison Martin: Otherwise we might just all stay in bed all day.
Rebecca Heiss: I mean, honestly, when people say like they don’t want any stress in their life, I’m like, well, that’s literally what’s going to happen because you won’t get out of bed, right? And don’t think it leads to a very fulfilling life. But. Yeah, that’s that’s an option. Actually there’s really there’s been really interesting research that I came across recently about the most purposeful, fulfilled lives. And this was like a massive (you probably have seen this), but it was a massive study across like a large swath of Americans. And the number one correlate to a meaningful, purposeful life was stress. So like stressful events that happened in the past, stressful moments in the present and even like future worry and anxiety were predictors of a fulfilled, purposeful life. And I was like, oh, all right. That’s something to keep in mind as I’m in that, you know, distress zone.
Jean Trebek: Right.
Jean Trebek: That’s really interesting. And what I thought was interesting, I have a child who’s non-binary. So the gender sex thing was… it’s amazing because it’s so insidious like the, you know, like women not promoting women or like just the numbers you gave of the amount of women, that’s amazing to me.
Rebecca Heiss: Yeah. It’s funny. So I’m giving a TEDx on Wednesday. Um, oh gosh.But specifically on gender and and power and how culturally we’ve defined power as achievement. Right? Success is money and finance and politics and power. And we’ve neglected to cheerlead, I think, men or non-binary people into feminine power, into vulnerability, into connection, into all of these. These, these superpowers of women that don’t have monetary value. And so they’ve not been seen as as powerful. There’s a really interesting, uh, approach there. I think we’ll see. We’ll see how it goes.
Alison Martin: Good luck.
Jean Trebek: Yeah.
Rebecca Heiss: Thanks. You may hear about it, but you probably won’t remember.
Alison Martin: Remember stress makes you have a better life. You just told us that. So there you go.
Rebecca Heiss: That’s right. Increases my performance. I got this.
Jean Trebek: You know, one of, Rebecca, one of the modules on that amazing course that you’ve developed. I mean, there’s so much packed in there. I was telling Alison, I really think that course should be a mandatory class taken.
Rebecca Heiss: Thank you.
Alison Martin: Truly,
Jean Trebek: It should a required class like as a senior in high school.
Rebecca Heiss: Thank you. That means so much. We were just talking when you got up there about purpose and what drives you and the shoulds. And I feel like one of my biggest drivers is trying to get something like this into high schools, because when I’m asked my favorite talk that I’ve ever given, I’ll tell you a very quick story. I was giving a talk in in Charlotte, and this gentleman overheard me and he wasn’t part of the talk. He kind of like walked in at the end and he pulled me aside afterwards. He’s like, you know, my kid is playing basketball. He’s on this elite basketball team for 15 and under, you know, like ranked in the nation. And their team is just sucking. They’re just really playing poorly this tournament. Would you give them ten minutes of your time? I was like, yeah, of course. Like I’ll go and give a little… listen, it’s been a minute since I’ve talked to 15 year old boys. And I was like, you know, I’m giving a terrible, terrible presentation. They are just completely zoned out. I saved it a little bit at the end, and I gave them a couple little things to try. And the the coaches invited me to the game, and I watched them start to implement these things as they played. And it felt like I was watching Disney movie, like they should have gotten creamed. And then the fourth quarter, you know, they’re up by eight points. There’s 30s left and this kid comes off the bench who’s been playing just he’s been lighting it up all night. And he finds me in the stands and he just whispers. He mouths to me. – THANK YOU And I’m just like.
Alison Martin: Oh my gosh.
Jean Trebek: Yeah.
Rebecca Heiss: I’m just like, losing my mind because you think about the power of stuff like this. I wrote this course for the 16 year old me. You know, this is the stuff that I needed at that age. Um, and I’m still teaching it to, you know, 70 year old CEOs..
Jean Trebek: It’s amazing and there’s just so much that you offer in the online class that you give just one thing that, I mean, there was so much that stood out for me, but one in particular was the difference between being busy and being productive. I thought that was so great. Staying focused and that we’re not meant to be multitaskers.
Rebecca Heiss: Oh my gosh. And then the society that we live in today, like good luck ping ding ding. You know, you’re just like popping everywhere. It’s the confetti – time confetti – You know two minutes here, 30s there, and trying to stay focused in a distracted world is… Good luck being productive. Being productive on something that’s meaningful and valuable to you rather than I still find myself in days that I have to reset and I have to go back to my own teachings because I spent all morning answering emails and then I’m like, wait, where did the day go? You know, I was supposed to be writing or I was supposed to be doing something productive, and all I did was answer emails all morning. That’s how it sucks you in.
Alison Martin: When I was reading this, I did not realize, like, the idea that I’m having too much choice is not necessarily positive. And do you think there’s hope? Where is your hope lie? When you wrote something like this.
Rebecca Heiss: You know, I often describe myself as an optimist and a realist. So it is this constant battle, right? I do think that this stuff is tough, right? You’re fighting against 100, thousand, 200,000 years of evolution that is built your brain in this very specific way. And my optimist side says, yeah, but you can drive and you can drive for an hour completely subconsciously, like you’re screaming at the kids in the back, you’re adjusting your podcast. You remember the first time you drove a car, right? Your hands are tied and you’re like, oh my gosh, there’s street signs. I got to pay attention to all of this, right? Very different experience. And so if we can train our subconscious brain to do this like complex changing task, like driving, I think it’s I think there’s a lot of hope when we recognize the changes that we’re looking to make. Um, I think there’s great power there. And I’ll add to that, there was a study. Oh, man, I want to say it 2003. Don’t quote me on that. I’ll look back,,, On epigenetics. And essentially they took these mice. They sprayed a scent of cherry blossoms and then immediately shocked these these male mice now sounds awful. Sorry, science. I know I’m giving scientists a bad name, but what happened was they developed this basic conditioning response, right? They started to shake and shiver and be fearful every time they smelled cherry blossoms. And then they took these male, these male mice, and they bred them to female mice that had never smelled cherry blossoms, never been exposed to the shock. And the pups, the offspring were then exposed to cherry blossoms. And what happened? They shook as if this fear had been genetically coded and transferred to their offspring. Which is like mind blowing when you think about generational trauma. And it gives me a lot of hope, because that also means that we are our own wizards, right? We have instead of looking for the wizard behind the curtain, right to tell us, oh, you’ve got the power. You know, we’re wearing the ruby slippers. We all have the ability to actually change a lot of this wiring and allow the next generation allow ourselves first, but definitely the next generation to see things differently and to have a different response. So I think that’s really, really powerful.
Alison Martin: So so from that I remember I remember you talking about that my study, which kind of blew my mind a little bit and frightened me a little bit… Because I’m a parent, right? I have two kids. And first I thought of all the things that I experienced that I think are traumatic. And then, like, I just wanted to hold them. And then think about what the world has been through in terms of Covid and these wars, Does that mean that my kids, having experienced that, that Covid will be affecting us for some for generations?
Rebecca Heiss: So it’s a yes. And um, I think yeah, absolutely. There’s certainly that trauma and they’re completely natural to have that fear response of like, oh my gosh, what did I pass along? You know… And our brain is wired to see all the negative things, all the trauma that we’re passing on. Think of all the good things that happened to you. Think of your response to go hug your kids like that right there. That makes me tear up, because that’s the kind of response that’s getting passed along as well. And so just having that mind shift of, okay, yes, there are definitely some traumas that I’m passing along and look at the resiliency that I’m passing along. Did we make it through Covid? Did we have deeper relationships as a result? Did we really discover what’s important during Covid? Like there’s some really valuable stuff that we get to pass along as well. And I think I think it’s easy to skip over that and to miss that. Um, because again, that’s how our brain is wired, but it makes me feel better. Yeah, sure.
Alison Martin: This is all about my insecurity. So thank you so much. But I think that’s right. Like we talk about that… Something will happen and Jean will say you’re doing a great job or look at this, or look how you’ve helped your kids and likewise. And so I think that’s right. I was just – you’re right – my brain was just looking at the negative stuff when I heard that.
Rebecca Heiss: Which is totally natural. Right. That’s exactly what you’re supposed to do. So thank your brain and then you know, and then say, okay, well what else is there? What else? What else actually actually pass along. That’s that’s powerful. That’s good. Yeah.
Alison Martin: Also. You met your husband? Boyfriend?
Rebecca Heiss: Husband.
Alison Martin: Yeah, on a plane.
Rebecca Heiss: And that’s the best story.
Alison Martin: Okay, but wait. He’s the guy that it will have to interview people for a job. And if the first one comes in and is it? I was like, I love this guy. Yeah.
Rebecca Heiss: Yeah. I mean he’s an all in kind of guy. Right? He’s like here’s the boxes. This ticks the box I’m not going to maximize I’m not going to look for the the Barbie girl with an IQ of 400 who’s going to be out saving the world. You know what, Rebecca ticks the boxes. Let’s do this. So thank goodness I got lucky there. I think, um, I got really lucky. He’s pretty incredible. I forget exactly how much I told in the book about that story, but met me on the plane, proposed to me on the plane. Um, no, it’s pretty special.
Alison Martin: That’s amazing.
Rebecca Heiss: Oh, I didn’t tell you that?
Alison Martin: No. All you say is, what’s his name, Dr. Jovan or…?
Rebecca Heiss: Devins.
Alison Martin: Now you got to tell us.
Rebecca Heiss: All right, I’ll tell you because it’s a great story. So I give up my seat so a couple can sit together. I was flying to California to give a speech, and he was flying to Kansas City to go to a meeting. So we were both flying out of, out of Greenville, South Carolina, which is where we live. We lived about ten minutes apart at the time, and I’d given up my seat. So this couple in front could sit together and I’m like, Karma’s already rewarded me, right? The seat next to me is empty. I’m like, yeah, this is great. Starting to stretch out because it’s a 6 a.m. flight and putting my earbuds in and last minute, this tall, handsome Irishman comes and plunks down beside me. Now I’m like, it’s 6 a.m. I’m not a big plane talker. Anyway, so I’m putting my earbuds in and then he starts up this conversation and he’s got this really thick, beautiful Irish accent. And I’m like, okay, all right, I’ll talk with this guy. And an hour and a half into the flight, he asked me to dinner and so we agreed to dinner. A week later, we’re both back home. We go out to dinner. The dinner is incredible. It lasts like six hours. And as he tells it, the next day he went out and bought a ring and two tickets for the exact same flight, the exact same time, the exact same seats, six months to the day. And he proposed to me on that flight. And it’s it was definitely.
Alison Martin: That’s amazing.
Rebecca Heiss: Yeah, it’s pretty romantic, right? Yeah it is. He did well. He did well.
Alison Martin: And did you know?
Rebecca Heiss: Oh, instantly. I mean, I’m not I as extroverted as I come across, I’m a little bit of an introvert, and I like my little space on planes and just kind of just zone in and, um, and couldn’t stop talking with him. I mean, I texted my best friend right afterwards and was like, I just met the man of my dreams. It was it was pretty instant.
Alison Martin: So sweet.
Jean Trebek: That’s a little bit like your story, Alison… when you met Dan, you felt immediately
Rebecca Heiss: Oh, that’s so special.
Alison Martin: My husband and I are actors. And years before that, I had been in a bad, bad, bad relationship. So I was at home at my mom’s house, and I watched a TV commercial and it’s this guy with these sons and I said, why can’t I find a guy like this? Why can’t I find this type of a guy? And my mom says, because it’s a commercial. Like that was years years later, I’m at my soon to be husband’s house, and he’s cleaning out to move in with me. And I pop in his reel and he’s the guy in the commercial.
Rebecca Heiss: Oh stop it.
Jean Trebek: I love that.
Rebecca Heiss: See, I don’t think the universe makes mistakes, I really don’t. I think that was that is incredible. You know? And that’s you probably met at the right time. You probably weren’t ready for each other before. Had to go through some things, learn some things and wow.
Alison Martin: It’s pretty it’s pretty great.
Rebecca Heiss: That’s incredible.
Jean Trebek: Well, I wanted to, Rebecca, would you share with our listeners? Sure. The fact that you say the brain cannot differentiate between real and what’s not real, the story you tell it. I think that’s so important. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Rebecca Heiss: Absolutely. I’ll tell a story, a science story first to help illustrate it. So one of my favorite pieces of research of all time is this group of housekeepers that was split into two different conditions and in one condition, the researchers told the group nothing. And the other condition, they simply told them that they were meeting the Surgeon General’s requirement for exercise. Okay, so this is literally just words being said. And after four weeks time, they found a massive difference between the two groups, despite the fact that there had been no changes in heart rate or steps or diet. All of that’s factored out of the analysis. But the group that was simply told that they were meeting the Surgeon General’s requirement for exercise had lower weight, lower blood pressure, lower body fat, lower waist to hip ratio, and a lower body mass index. Now, I’ll tell your listeners, right now, I read that study and I was like, you’re an athlete. You’re an athlete. You’re an athlete, right? I’m like, working hard to tell my brain the story I want it to hear. But I think it speaks to just how often we’re very dismissive of the placebo effect. We’re like, oh, well, that’s just the story your brain is telling… Then like, yeah, it’s really, really powerful. It’s creating neural circuitry and wiring your brain to specifically see and feel and interact with the world in a specific way.
Rebecca Heiss: So our brain is creating reality all of the time, and there’s all kinds of really interesting visualizations and studies we can talk about. But probably the easiest one for people to recognize, as long as we’re talking about love and and meeting the love of our life, right, is it’s called the honeymoon effect. When you first meet that person you love for the person you loved or it doesn’t have to be your love now or it can be. We won’t tell. But think about that person. Think about that person. Think about when you first met that person. Now, you could have been going through the absolute wringer, right? It could have been pouring down rain. Your boss might be screaming at you. You get in a little car wreck like it’s a nightmare. But that’s not what you’re thinking about, right? You are like, high as a kite. Life is amazing because all of your focus is on love, right? And that effect is so powerful, I think, in demonstrating how much we control our own reality, how much the stories we’re telling ourselves create this experience of either wow, abundance and life and hope and excitement or oh my gosh, I cannot believe I have to get through this day again. And it’s a it’s a pretty powerful testament.
Alison Martin: Yeah, that’s that’s amazing. I don’t know how to word this. Do you practice manifestation? Do you know what I mean?We were inundated with the secret. You talk a little bit about manifesting. I would love to hear what you think.
Rebecca Heiss: Yeah I’m a big fan of manifesting actually. And I always put a little asterisk there. I’m like for scientists and skeptics because I was like, this is all woo woo. This is garbage. I don’t I don’t believe any of this. And then of course, had to, you know, had to go to the science. And I’m like, oh, uh, there’s actually a lot here. Holy smokes. This makes a whole lot of sense. So do I practice manifesting? Absolutely. And here’s what I’ll say. All of us practice manifesting. You may not do it intentionally, but you are manifesting all the time based on what you’re focusing on, right? Where is your brain pulling you? And unfortunately for most of us, it’s pulling us towards the negative because the negative stuff is the stuff that can kill us and our brain is really, really aware of that. So, consciously pulling ourselves out of that and focusing on the positive, focusing on the opportunity, focusing on the hope. I think that’s an act of of visualization, of manifesting. So I do a lot of visualization. Um, the simplest one is just in, in public speaking. So I’m on the circuit. I do a lot of, I do a lot of presentations from stages. And if I told you that I wasn’t nervous before I went on every single time, I’d be a liar. Right? Like every single time my heart rate starts to pound, I sweat, my mouth dries up, I get a full on stress response, and I work through visualizing myself on the specific stage, looking out at all of the individual’s faces, seeing their smiles, recognizing that they’re they’re picking up what I’m putting down right and seeing the changes that that are happening.
Rebecca Heiss: And as I do that I can calm down and I can kind of live the experience that I’m about to have so that when I go on stage, it’s like going through the motions. It’s my brain already has laid down the foundation of what I’m going to experience, and so it’s a lot easier to just fire those neurons. Then I’ll warn you that, you know, if you do the opposite and you’re like, oh, I’m going to fumble, I’m going to mumble, I’m going to screw it all up. Yeah, you’re likely manifesting that as well. So it’s work and I think so much of that is just consciously working with your brain, with your biology, thanking it rather than getting frustrated, like, thank you, I know you’re protecting me. Um, it’s weird for your listeners that can’t see me. I literally will pat my brain and like, pat my head. I’m like, oh, you’re taking care of me. I know, I just don’t need you right now. Thank you. I know you’re protecting me, but we’re going to do some we’re going to do something good.
Jean Trebek: Yeah, the thing is to actually do the work. It’s great you hear these beautiful tips that you give… but it comes down to actually doing it, you know?
Rebecca Heiss: So it’s still work. Yeah. I mean there’s a really cool study on visualization. And like they had people visualizing exercising. So like visualizing doing bicep curls and they actually grew their biceps y’all. Like they grew their biceps by visualizing. And I’m like this is amazing. I never have to go to the gym again. But actually it’s just as much work because you still have to go through the motions and really work at it. It’s just a different kind of work. So yeah, it’s work. It’s work. You got to take the actions.
Alison Martin: Aside from like public speaking, where you might get nervous, but it’s something that you are doing. Do you still find yourself occasionally in places of fear?
Rebecca Heiss: Oh. Every day. Every day I’m in fear. And I think, um, you know, as a stress physiologist, so often people come to me and they’re like, oh, tell me all your secrets. You must have no stress and no fear. And I’m like, no, no, no, no. I have so much fear. And the reality is I get to feel it. And I think so often what we do is we push it aside and we push it down. We’re like, I’m not going to deal with it. I’m not going to think about it. I’m not going to worry about it. And instead what that does is it’s like telling our brain, don’t think about pink elephants. Like, don’t you don’t you think about pink? Alison- I see you think I see you… you got pink elephant just dancing around your head right now. And so I feel fear every day. I think the difference is I use it, I transform it, I allow it to fuel me rather than to hold me back. Because that fear in my life, I’m incredibly lucky. So in my life, I don’t feel like the fear is not going to kill me. You know, I don’t live in a war zone. I’m not being stalked by tigers. There’s very few things that come up that that are fearful, that are actual life and death situations for me. So when I reframe it and I’m like, well, what’s the cost of missing out? What’s the cost of inaction here? What if I don’t do it so often? Those are the bigger fears, right? It’s the regrets. The let’s go all in. Let’s give it a shot. What’s the worst that can happen or what’s the best that can happen? Right. Um, and that’s been a really powerful recognition for me, is that fear doesn’t go away. We just get to use it rather than have it use us.
Alison Martin: Jean laughs. Because we talked to all these people. And I’m always like, do you get upset? You know, like, are you like this all the time? I find that very comforting. I was hoping to that you could just talk a little bit about that incident at the restaurant.
Rebecca Heiss: Yes, I can talk so much about that.
Alison Martin: That is so common. And I myself have been attacked at knifepoint. And so when I read that, I thought, um, I found that such an interesting story because you were very honest about it. You weren’t like this hero that kicked him under the table, can you just talk about it a little bit?
Rebecca Heiss: Yeah, absolutely.
Alison Martin: So I’m sorry if this upsets you.
Rebecca Heiss: No, no, no, actually, I appreciate it. In fact, listen, I wish more people would ask about this. This is the thing that I want to be speaking about a lot more because it impacts so many women. And we just we don’t talk about it enough. So what Alison is referring to here is a story that I wrote about in my book about being in a restaurant and having a guy kind of slide in and put his hands on me. And instead of doing the things that we are taught to do as women in society here to fight, to flee, to run, to scream, to punch, to kick. I did nothing, I froze. And it’s sat with me like this massive guilt of this like second victimization of like, well, why didn’t you? Why did you allow that to happen to you? And I waited for my friend to come and rescue me. And it was so embarrassing. Because I’m sitting there like I’m a full grown adult. You can’t tell this, but I’m six foot. Like I’m six foot. I’m athletic. Like I can knock this guy out, but I don’t, and I don’t do any of this, and it drives me absolutely nuts. So this happened actually multiple times. And I think in the story in the book, I probably skipped skipped a few, but it wasn’t until my late 30s that this happened again, and it was a little bit more of a serious incident that it finally clicked for me. Because I’m a stress physiologist, I literally study stress, and I had never applied what we see in stress biology to myself and women, 70% of women- the number one response to stress is to freeze, because fighting typically is a poor choice, because men typically are larger than us and stronger than us. And I’m not trying to insult women. That is just biologically the case. They’re typically faster than us, so running away usually not the best option. So biology has really equipped us with this third alternative to a stressful situation with a potential predator, which is to freeze and appease sometimes looks like sitting very still and smiling. And that is a physiological response that just does not get overridden by me saying, oh, I’m just going to punch this guy. And so I think it’s so, so important for women to hear and know that it’s not your fault like that is. You cannot change that. That is that is wired into your biology. So be aware of it, forgive yourself for it, and think it’s just as essential that we train men to recognize this response as well, because so often they see a woman smiling at them and they’re like, well, she’s into me, right? This is this is not consent, unfortunately. Right. And then our programmed biologically wired for sexual overperception. So they think women are into them a lot more than they are. Sorry guys. That’s again biological programming. So you put these two situations together and you have a woman who’s frozen and perhaps smiling, and a man whose biology is basically organized to help him think that every woman is into him. And you’re creating absolute disastrous opportunities here for, for sexual assault and worse. So, yeah, it’s really important that we talk about the freeze response and understand it at a biological level.
Alison Martin: So you said, well, first of all, I think that’s so important because during MeToo when I was watching like all the stories coming up and I thought, you know, people would say, well, why didn’t you just leave the hotel room? And I’m like, that’s not that’s not how it happens. Maybe for some people that is and great. But for some people it that’s not how it happens. So how did you how do you overcome something like the freeze response?
Rebecca Heiss: Oh, man, I wish I could tell you that it was just an easy thing to do. You can. Most of the time. And it is really painful training, right? It is visualization. It’s the same training that it takes to for us to shift any, any triggering wiring in our brain. And so let me ask you this. Actually consider this. Think about somebody throwing a piece of paper in your face. Right. And then don’t flinch. That’s what you’re asking people to do, right. When you’re asking them to override these, these physiological responses. Um, and is it doable. Yeah. Is it really, really hard. Absolutely. So you can do a lot of visualization of those specific scenarios, which is, again, really painful and very triggering for a lot of people. Um, and you can work towards moving out of the freeze response, but there’s no guarantee. Um, and in those heightened physiological states, we are not ourselves. You’re not using this frontal lobe. You don’t get an option to choose. It is just straight into survival mode. So so yeah, thank you for asking about that.
Alison Martin: The thing to take away for women is the guilt portion. I think when I was attacked, people said, well, what were you wearing? And I was like, what? I don’t even know. I couldn’t even understand that. So I think the real thing I want women to hear is it’s not… You don’t have to feel any guilt. No, this is not your fault.
Rebecca Heiss: You couldn’t have done it differently. You could not have done it differently. And your your brain and body were betraying you, but they were doing what they needed to do to help you survive. And I think that is so, so valuable to understand and recognize. Yeah. Thank you for asking that.
Alison Martin: Well, thank you for telling your story.
Rebecca Heiss: For sure.
Alison Martin: You look like you have a list.
Jean Trebek: Here are questions for you.
Rebecca Heiss: I love it.
Jean Trebek: Well, you know, I know we’re we’re getting a little bit close.
Alison Martin: We’re running or sorry we’re talking so long.
Rebecca Heiss: Please I love this. This is this is the highlight of my day. I love talking to bright women.
Jean Trebek: Okay. So let’s let’s talk about how important it is to own your fear.
Rebecca Heiss: Yeah, you say more about that.
Jean Trebek: You have a module about it. And in the module you use the Superman Kryptonite. And I love I love that owning your fear. My husband was a big champion. He say to my kids, own your sh*t, you know, own it. Don’t don’t project it. Don’t. Yeah. That’s that’s your Achilles heel, as you say. So, Rebecca. What? Want to talk about that a little bit.
Rebecca Heiss: Yeah, sure. Think. You know, self-awareness is so important and so valuable and so, so difficult because our brain, again, is trying to protect us. And it’s like, no, I’m amazing at everything. Why why would you ever ask me about my weakness? You know, my weakness is that I work so hard. No, dude. Everybody has a weakness and it’s okay. And I think the more we’re vulnerable and we’re open about. Hey, listen, you know, I’ll often take offense to things that I shouldn’t take offense to. Okay. If I know that about myself, and I share it with people. Then they can help me adapt. First of all, they’re going to be more sensitive when I do that and then react, right. They’re like, oh, I get it. So I talk about flaunting your Kryptonite. And the idea here is, you know, Superman, even Superman had Kryptonite. Even Superman has has some kind of weakness. And instead of hiding that, what if Superman had been, like, all right, world, you know, Kryptonite. It’s a real problem for me. Um, if he had done that immediately, everybody’s head goes to – well, then everybody knows how to kill him. Yeah. So there’s a handful of people that might abuse that, but there’s 99% of the world that goes – cool. We’re going to be on the lookout for that Kryptonite, and we’re going to warn you and help you when it comes your way. Um, so, like I always think of I don’t know why, but I always think of Wonder Woman, like, swooping in in those moments. And it’s like, don’t worry, I got your back, I see the Kryptonite. Um, I use Steve Jobs a lot as an example here, because Steve Jobs was an incredible leader by a lot of measures. But even Steve Jobs was very aware that his empathy scale was pretty low. And everybody knew that. And that was a huge flaunting of Kryptonite, because when empathy was involved, everybody’s like, Steve, get out of the room, we don’t get you’re actually hurting us, right? And that made him a very powerful human being that sort of recognition and flaunting of Kryptonite.
Jean Trebek: Yeah, yeah. And it’s really not about being a perfect person because there is no such thing.
Rebecca Heiss: Golly.
Jean Trebek: And I love that science and spirituality are championing – get away from being perfect. You know this is a fearful world. This is. But you can like you said, Rebecca, reframed certain things and have tools to navigate yourself through life situations so that you’re not a victim of it.
Rebecca Heiss: If you have to be perfect, the world is an incredibly scary place if you have to be perfect because look I mean like got wrinkles coming out. I got some gray hairs up there like. Heaven forbid I have to be perfect in every way. And I do think a lot of us fall into that perfectionist trap. And then it is an incredibly scary world. But I again, I like using people as examples. And Jennifer Lawrence is one of my classic examples here. We all everybody loves Jennifer Lawrence, everybody loves Jennifer Lawrence. Why? She gaffed, she falls at red carpet events, she laughs at herself because she doesn’t take herself all that. She doesn’t have to be perfect and we love her more for it. So again, keeping that in mind, realizing that like, if I have a booger hanging out of my nose right now, I’m sorry. But like, you know, it makes me human, right? Because we’ve all had those situations. And so instead of being so fearful of that, we can fear a little bit less. And it invites everybody else around us to do the same, like, oh, I can breathe a little easier now too.
Alison Martin: Could you tell us a little bit if you do you have a spiritual practice or is there something that you do that maybe you could just let us know? Because we just it’s so interesting how you’re like both.
Rebecca Heiss: Well, so I grew up in the church. My dad is a minister. Um, and I should say was a minister. He got kicked out of the church. And I’m super, super proud of him for for marrying LGBTQ community members, which. You know. Thanks, dad. So he set a really good example. What’s that?
Alison Martin: Wait, he was kicked out?
Rebecca Heiss: Yeah, yeah.
Jean Trebek: Wow.
Rebecca Heiss: So I feel like had a really good example early on in life of religion, spirituality and science. Kind of like all and finding the good, bad and ugly and in all of them and really picking and choosing what I wanted to to exemplify. So do I have a spiritual practice? I think, yeah, I think my spiritual practice is spreading joy. Um, that is truly my one goal in life. Honestly, I, I have a mission to spread happy. Um, and that is. And it’s just not that hard because I feel like when I, when I show up, like, just appreciating life and appreciating finding the joy, everybody around me reflects that back to me. And then it’s this absolutely addictive incredible. And it gives me chills. I find awe in the every day because of that. So to me, the, I guess, spiritual practice is recognizing that we are all one and we’re all reflections of one another. So if I’m seeing a lot of ugly and negativity in the world, I probably need to check in with myself and see what I’m putting out. Um, because it’s a beautiful, beautiful world that we have the privilege of sharing and the small, tiny moment in time that we all get to share together. So what a great opportunity to make it ours.
Alison Martin: I love that you say that.
Jean Trebek: You could not have wrapped up better when.
Alison Martin: When you write your next book. Can we talk to you again?
Rebecca Heiss: Oh my gosh, can I interview y’all for my next book? This is great. I love this.
Alison Martin: We’ll be your friends…
Jean Trebek: We’ll be like your guinea pigs.
Rebecca Heiss: That’d be great. Let’s just get together and drink wine and let the book write itself. I feel like that could.
Alison Martin: We would love that. You’re so great
Jean Trebek: You’re such a beacon of love and light and joy.
Alison Martin: I have to tell you, though, my favorite module is when someone scares you and you start laughing. And I love that you kept that in.
Rebecca Heiss: Well, you know.
Alison Martin: I played that a few times.
Rebecca Heiss: You know what? Life is goofy. We are goofy beings. I think more people need to show that side of themselves like we are absolutely ridiculous beings. So let it rip, let it rip. Thank you for that. I’m glad you liked that.
Alison Martin: Yeah, you were great and we’d love to like, you know, catch up with you again and, you know, likewise. Please stay in touch because you really are so special.
Jean Trebek: You are.
Rebecca Heiss: Oh, gosh. You all too. Thank you. This has been like, the highlight of my whole week. Thank you, thank you, thank you. This has been an absolute pleasure. I hope your listeners get something valuable out of it and that, and don’t hesitate to reach out if there’s anything that I can do to add some joy and some love to to y’all’s life.
Alison Martin: Break your leg on your Ted talk.
Rebecca Heiss: Thank you. I’ll do my best. I’ll play. I won’t break anything, but yeah.
Jean Trebek: Thank you. Rebecca.
Jean Trebek: It’s been a pleasure. Thank you, Alison, bye Jean. Great to see you all.
Jean Trebek: Take care. Bye. Cheers. Bye, guys.
Alison Martin: Okay, here we are.
Jean Trebek: Oh my gosh, she had so much to say. I could listen to her and talk with her all day.
Alison Martin: Her information is personal and yet science based, which I think is so important. You know.
Jean Trebek: And she’s so humble and she’s so authentic and vulnerable and she’s just an amazing woman. I love your conversation with her about the time that she was sitting in the booth at the restaurant, and this man came over. That was that was quite something.
Alison Martin: And so important for women and men to hear. I think it’s just very important. And also her lightness and her enthusiasm I found so infectious. Didn’t you like her energy?
Jean Trebek: She definitely was not like a scientist with, you know, she’s just she’s beautiful inside and out. She’s got so much joy. And she said that her motto is is it? Her motto is like sharing joy or happiness. I mean, what a beautiful motto.
Alison Martin: Yeah, just like ours. Right? Share the good. So if you have a chance, pick up Instinct or listen to her Fear(less) modules because they’re really, really worthwhile I think. Right?
Jean Trebek: Yeah.
Alison Martin: And now I think it’s time for us to get some sleep, a nap.
Jean Trebek: Have a great day. Bye.