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Do you feel frustrated by recurring struggles with self-doubt, hypervigilance, and overwhelm?

Behind many of your inner doubts, self-judgements, fears, and insecurities lie echoes from old betrayals or relational hurts.

These breaches of trust in important relationships don’t necessarily lose their impact on how you lead and work just because they happened a long time ago.

So when you’re doing something new or high stakes, or there’s an experience in a relationship at work or in your personal life, or you respond to a collective trauma that taps the echoes of your old wound, it can bring up old ways of responding or old patterns that impact how you honor your boundaries and values. 

And the expectation that you should ‘be over this by now’ when you are human and working with others adds to your stress and frustration.

But the reality is that healing from relational wounds and betrayal traumas often comes in stages and seasons, and you may need support along the way.

Deran Young is a licensed therapist, New York Times Best-Selling Author, former military mental health officer, and the founder of Black Therapists Rock. This nonprofit organization mobilizes over 30,000 mental health professionals committed to reducing the psychological impact of systemic oppression and intergenerational trauma.

She obtained her social work degree from the University of Texas, where she studied abroad in Ghana, West Africa for two semesters, creating a high school counseling center for under-resourced students. She is a highly sought-after diversity and inclusion consultant working with companies like Facebook, Linked In, Field Trip Health, and YWCA. Deran has become a leading influencer and public figure committed to spreading mental health awareness and improving health equity.

Listen to the full episode to hear:

  • The importance of learning to recognize the cultural and familial legacy burdens that impact us
  • How shame and an inability to be vulnerable shut down speaking the truth about cultural and personal histories
  • How early relational trauma can lead people to feeling out of place, not just at home, but in the world at large
  • Why our earliest experiences with our caregivers have such a deep impact on our relationships later in life
  • The lasting impact of the roles we take on as children in dysfunctional families in how we lead ourselves and others
  • How cultural expectations and perfectionism can dehumanize mothers and leaders
  • The potential for psychedelic-assisted therapy to change our relationships with our burdens

Learn more about Deran Young:

Learn more about Rebecca:



[Inspirational Intro Music]

Deran Young: Intimacy is what I feel like we’re lacking as leaders and as individuals on the planet. If you didn’t get that level of intimacy, that care and that connection, you know, that Self-energy, really, from your caregiver, them giving of themself, their vulnerable, soft, tender self, that’s what creates relational trauma. That’s the origins, if you will, of relational trauma. And when most of us haven’t had that, all we can do is re-create trauma with our partners, with our children, and with our coworkers and our friends and family.

Rebecca Ching: Do you feel frustrated by recurring struggles with self-doubt, hypervigilance, and overwhelm, especially when you’ve spent a lot of time and resources healing from these experiences that cause you to stress? And do you struggle with trusting the people you work with, whether they’re your colleagues, superiors, those in your charge or even trusting yourself? Behind many of your inner doubts, self-judgements, fears, and insecurities lie echoes from old betrayals or relational hurts, or there may be some unaddressed wounds from past relationships letting you know they finally need some of your attention.

Now, these breaches of trust in important relationships, especially those from parents or caregivers or educators or first loves, former bosses and mentors, all these don’t necessarily lose their impact on how you lead and work just because they happened a long time ago.

Now, a couple of your personal experiences with the real-time weight of the world and demands of adulting right now, and it sure makes sense you may feel out of sorts and not yourself, but when you compassionately befriend the echoes of betrayal wounds and breaches of trust in your past relationships instead of trying to think through them, power over them, or exile them, you can help yourself get back on track and move towards a deeper level of Self-leadership.


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.

One of my clients’ most common questions to me is, “Why am I still struggling with this?” They go on to tell me how much work they’ve done on issues around self-doubt and insecurity and the traumas they’ve experienced, the betrayals, the disappointments, the losses, the rejections and more. They faced it all, and they emphasized they’ve done the deep work and they thought they were healed. And then something comes up, and they feel like they’re going backward. They tell me these struggles even feel worse now because they believe they shouldn’t be feeling the way they do because it was supposed to be dealt with.

My clients continue to teach me that even when they invest significantly in healing from their difficult life experiences, echoes of their pain still show up and cause a bit of havoc, especially when you’re doing something new or high stakes or there’s an experience in a relationship at work or in your personal life that’s activating, or you respond to a collective trauma experience that taps the echoes of your old wound and it can bring up old ways of responding or old patterns that impact how you honor your boundaries and your values.

The expectation that you should be over this by now, when you are human and working with other humans, adds to your stress and frustration.


When you inevitably find yourself at a trailhead of additional or new emotional work that needs some care, I really wish you would stop beating yourselves up for the struggle and normalize this common human experience, because y’all, we’re human not machines. When we dare to care and learn and grow, it means we’ll take risks and expose ourselves to challenges that may stir up the echoes in our story.

Now, these echoes don’t mean that we’re not healed or that we’re broken. They’re just data that we need more support and time to reflect on our actions in life. This common experience is normal and not a flaw, and yet we get frustrated with ourselves and others when we can’t pull on our grownup pants. Okay, I want to have a moment for this phrase because it’s been showing up a lot in my work with teams and individuals lately, and I keep hearing people say, “I just need to pull up my grownup pants,” or “They need to pull up their grownup pants.” And I ask folks what they mean by it.

Now, I know what they mean, but I want to hear what the meaning is behind that phrase for them, and I see and hear that it comes from a place of frustration when people feel stuck in a relational dynamic at work, when they’re having trouble moving a project forward or there’s a lot of conflict. But if folks feel frozen or avoidant or combative, of course, we understandably want them to adult better, but responding to vulnerability and fear and shame with more judgment and shame can feel worse and make things worse.

Now, we experience pain and trauma in relationships, and we also experience healing in relationships, and while our job is 100% not to be therapists to everyone we lead and work with, we can absolutely be healing and shed some light on the struggles we witness with some curiosity and boundaries and accountability. Often, when we just name the thing that we see happening or name what we experience in that certain dynamic, it can dissipate the struggle immensely, particularly for those who have a long history of their own personal and professional development work and have committed to a life of long-term healing.


Sometimes just acknowledging the thing and showing some compassion for experiencing it, saying it out loud,  and getting a witness can help create some much needed space and relief, and sometimes you just may benefit from some focused support if you find recalibrating difficult. Healing from relational wounds and betrayal traumas often come in stages and seasons. Really, there’s nothing tidy about it. Sorry to be a buzzkill. It’s just the truth. Even though we see so many people offering these quick-fix promises and tidy self-help plans. But I see again and again how post-traumatic relational healing work can also just inspire what you do and what you create, and that’s why I wanted to have today’s Unburdened Leader guest join me on the podcast.

I am so thrilled to welcome back Deran Young to The Unburdened Leader podcast. Deran is a licensed therapist. She’s a New York Times Best Selling author, a former military mental health officer, and the founder of Black Therapists Rock. BTR is a nonprofit organization mobilizing over 30,000 mental health professionals committed to reducing the psychological impact of systemic oppression and intergenerational trauma. Deran obtained her social work degree from The University of Texas, and she also studied abroad during that time in Ghana, West Africa for two semesters, and she created a high school counseling center for under-resourced students. That’s just how Deran rolls.


Deran’s also a highly sought after diversity and inclusion consultant working with companies like Facebook, LinkedIn, Field Trip Health, and the YMCA. Deran has become a leading influencer and public figure committed to spreading mental health awareness and improving health equity.

I want you to listen when Deran talks about belonging and the impact on us when we don’t feel like we’ve had a place when we were young and how we lead ourselves and others as a result of never really feeling belonging in our homes. Pay attention to Deran’s discussion of her focus on Self-leadership, and notice when Deran shares her belief that if we come from a traumatic background we absolutely still can experience joy in this lifetime. Now, please welcome back Deran Young to The Unburdened Leader podcast.

Deran, welcome to the podcast! Welcome back to the podcast!

Deran Young: So glad to be here with you, Rebecca.

Rebecca Ching: You know, when you first came on the show last year (at the time of this recording), you joined a leadership roundtable with Dick Schwartz, the founder of Internal Family Systems, and I loved our conversation where we talked about cultural burdens and really dialed into the cultural burden of individualism and had a really beautiful conversation about that. I’m excited to keep up the theme of talking about burdens but to dig a little deeper on what we in the IFS space call legacy burdens. And I want to start by asking how do you define a legacy burden, and how do you see these burdens impact how we lead ourselves and others?


Deran Young: Yeah, thanks for that question, Rebecca. I’ve been describing myself lately as a cultural translator. So one of my biggest passions is taking IFS to the everyday person and helping them understand it in a very practical, lived-experience way. I define legacy burdens as anything negative that we’re passing down and around, anything that could be harmful, that could be exhausting, that could create more labor for our fellow human beings, and we’ve been conditioned into it. It’s like a systemic cultural thing, often. I specifically look at cultural burdens, things that we’re holding, that we’ve all holding. Things that are invisible as the air and the wind and we’re breathing it in and we don’t even know it.

So helping us see those things that we’re passing down and around, especially to the next generation, as, I believe, that we all have a desire to be well and good ancestors, and I believe the work that we do around legacy burdens helps us to do that.

Rebecca Ching: Thank you for that. In addition to the cultural burdens that we can pass down and around, this can be from our family lineage. What are some of the other roots of some of these burdens that we may pass down and around?

Deran Young: Yeah, so as a retired military therapist, I initially came into the realm of PTSD through family dysfunction.

Rebecca Ching: Mm.

Deran Young: We were noticing that people who came back from the military combat zones were having an increased rate of domestic violence and child abuse and not having enough positive outlets for that aggression and for that trauma. And so, I started to get in touch with that within myself, and I noticed that there were a lot of ways that I was raised as a child to kind of stuff my feelings down, just be tough, never let anyone see you sweat, never ask for help, and just keep moving forward at all costs.


And so, I saw that in military members. I started to see the patterns once I retired from the military. I started to see how those patterns of family dysfunction were in most families in The United States of America and how our culture, as I was saying before, kind of breeds that. So this lack of emotional closeness with others, this lack of being seen and being valued and feeling like you belong in the world and that you belong in your home and that you belong in your family and in your community and in your job, there’s a huge gap in our country around belonging, and it’s not just race, class, and gender. It’s also belonging within your own home.

Rebecca Ching: Thank you for that. Yeah, it’s so important because, at least in my experience, I think a lot of people are walking around not aware of how much they’re carrying (often, that’s not even their own) that’s been passed down to them. How do you see how these unaddressed burdens impact how we lead ourselves and others?

Deran Young: Well, again, you know, if you were raised by parents who carried a lot of trauma, whether it be the trauma of poverty (a lot of people from The Great Depression passed down that trauma), the trauma of military combat, the trauma of hyper-religiosity (being very focused on religion and nothing else). Hyper-religiousness, that’s seen also as a trauma. There’s a 12-Step program actually for these intergenerational traumas now. It’s called Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families.

Rebecca Ching: Wow.

Deran Young: Yeah, Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families Anonymous (ACA). And so, we know that there are all types of ways that families get unhealthy, that families can be unhealthy, and how we pass that down to our children, whether it be the way that we handle stress and emotions and mental health, and health in general.


Things like play and rest, the wholeheartedness that we learned about from Brené Brown, being able to be vulnerable. Is vulnerability seen as a weakness or seen as a strength. Most of us grew up in families where vulnerability and showing your emotions and being soft and tender was seen as something bad and negative. So that is the conditioning that we’re all kind of working against, and that’s the burden that it creates in our lives and in our relationships.

Rebecca Ching: Absolutely. I’d love for you to share maybe some of your legacy burdens that you’ve worked through but have also influenced, even inspired, your professional and career choices. I mean, you mentioned you joined the military, you’re a licensed clinical social worker, you’re a founder, you’re a leader, you’re an educator. You’re so much more. I’m just curious how the burdens that you have carried have influenced these choices in your career.

Deran Young: Yeah, so I grew up with a mother who had a lot of trauma passed down to her from slavery in a very rural part of Northern Texas. We always celebrated Juneteenth because Texas was the last state to free the slaves. And so, with that kind of growing up and in your blood, you know, that lived experience of trauma and oppression is something that I was always very aware of. I was very aware of the boundaries between Black people and white people growing up in a rural part of Texas. There was this silent code that we all knew.

I was just in Tulsa last weekend for MLK weekend, which I see as a weekend of service, so I went to do service in Tulsa and really learned about the history there.


It was really interesting, the ancestral trauma that remains on that land that no one talks about. Someone said that they had to become a historian to even learn about the history of Tulsa, and they grew up there. Even as someone who grew up there, this is not something that’s taught in schools. We have a history in American culture of not talking about hard things, not talking about things that might be sensitive or delicate and not having the skills. You know, again, if vulnerability is seen as a weakness, then we don’t have the skills to have these conversations in a way that’s healing and hopeful and loving with one another.

And so, I went to Tulsa and just feeling the energy there and feeling the burden of not being able to speak the things that are true, and the things that you’re living every day, having your reality — you know, whether it be, for me, it was the reality that my mother was addicted to crack cocaine. That was my reality growing up in the eighties and nineties. That was my reality, and the fact that she was a teen mother of three children by the time she was 19 years old, in very severe poverty, and having no support, no access to resources, it was really, really difficult to speak the truth of that reality. I think there’s a lot of shame that goes with poverty, that goes with addiction, that goes with trauma. I tell people that, for me, shame stands for Should Have Already Mastered Everything. 

Rebecca Ching: Mm.

Deran Young: I felt like I should know, as a child, how to navigate this silent code that no one gave me the rules to, you know? That I was the hero child, my role was to be smart, was to be the one who made it out, the hope of the future. But no one told me how to navigate the emotions that went with that.


And so, like you said, it inspired my work so deeply because I felt like the humanity of human beings when you’re in these lived experiences of poverty. So many people around the world experience poverty, and there’s a traumatic effect to that. It robs you of certain aspects of your humanity. As the same as it goes with addiction and untreated trauma. That’s what I tell people. It’s not just trauma alone but trauma unhealed, trauma unspoken, trauma unacknowledged is what we continue to pass down and only gets worse from generation to generation.

Rebecca Ching: Thank you for that, Deran. I want to shift a little bit because I think one of the aspects of legacy burdens happens in trauma, especially when we experience it in relationship, which is usually when we experience trauma. I think culture is catching up but still people think it’s a car accident or something like that. But there’s something particularly nefarious about a relational wounding or a relational betrayal and the echoes of that in our lives and in our lineage.

Take me back to a time when you experienced a relational betrayal, and I’d love for you to share how the echoes of that experience impact how you lead today.

Deran Young: Yeah, so one of the biggest relational traumas I will say is that my mother, because of her addiction, would drop me off at my grandmother’s house, oftentimes, and it’d be in the middle of the night. She would leave us on the porch and ring the bell and kind of drive off because she knew that my grandmother would take us but she wouldn’t be happy about it.


And so, my grandmother, I remember very distinctly, her opening the door one night and saying, “I wish your mother would get her shit together. I’m so sick of raising her children,” and feeling as though I didn’t belong anywhere, like I had no one, no one to support and see me and my suffering and my pain as a child who was stuck in the middle of all this, and I remember going into the closet and crying, and that was my way of dealing with relational shame for most of my life, even throughout my marriage.

In my previous marriage, I would go in the closet and cry when I was hurt versus letting someone see me be vulnerable and hurting and in pain. I think I did that throughout the military. It was always just like, “Hide your pain. Hide your suffering. Don’t make a big deal. Don’t pass the burden onto anyone else. Just take the burden on yourself.”

Rebecca Ching: Mm.

Deran Young: And that became so overwhelming, as I began to approach my forties, that my body started to decline. My body couldn’t tolerate the amount of weight that that burden carried, you know? The burden of being alone in the world, that’s what it feels like when you suffer from a complex trauma from early childhood experiences — adverse childhood experiences. You know, experiences that rob you of your humanity, that make you feel as though you don’t belong on the planet, as though your existence is meaningless. That’s often what I saw in the military would lead to depression and suicide: feeling that you have no purpose and you have no place in the world. If you don’t have a place in your family, it often leads to, “What is my place on the planet?” And so, when we have a planet full of people who feel like they don’t belong here, that’s a cultural crisis, in my opinion.


But going back to what you talked about as far as the early, early childhood stuff, from the womb, really, all the way up to Dr. Erikson (who was one of our founding theorists), he says that the goal of that phase is to either discover trust or mistrust. So we’re learning to trust the world, we’re learning to trust our caregivers, and we’re learning to trust ourselves, really, and our caregivers are teaching us how to trust ourselves and how to trust the world.

But when our own caregivers are the ones hurting us, that’s when it becomes very complicated. For myself, when it came to my own motherhood journey, I decided to look at more ancient African principles such as the idea of carrying your baby for most of the day and really attaching and gradually introducing them to the world, recreating the womb as much as possible, so that this new spirit, this new life has a gradual process of learning how to trust the world and truth themselves.

The book that I kind of mentored or modeled my parenting after is called The Happiest Baby on The Block, and I really swear by that book because it builds intimacy. That’s what I feel like we’re lacking as leaders and as individuals on the planet. If you didn’t get that level of intimacy, that care, and that connection, that Self-energy, really, from your caregiver (them giving of themself, their vulnerable, soft, tender self to you to welcome you into the world), that’s what creates relational trauma. That’s the origins, if you will, of relational trauma. And when most of us haven’t had that, all we can do is recreate trauma with our partners, with our children, and with our coworkers and our friends and family.


Rebecca Ching: One hundred percent. You mentioned something I want to circle back to about how you would go into the closet and not have anyone see your hurt and your pain because you wanted to carry the burden yourself and not pass it on. I didn’t go to the closet; I went to the bathroom. So when you said that, I have all these memories. I would go to the bathroom, and I would, you know, let my emotion out, get it all together, go back, and re-enter the family situation.

So the bathroom was my closet, and that just stood out to me. There was something in you that said, “I’ve got to take this. I don’t want to put it on anybody else, and it’s mine to carry.” Can you say a little bit more about that and how that shifted over the years?

Deran Young: Yeah, I think there are a lot of theories around family roles and family dysfunction. If you look into ACA, you’ll learn a lot about family roles, and they talk about the hero child, the child that takes it on as their burden to transform and change, and I think there’s something kind of noble about that, but there’s also — again, they don’t get the humanity of just being a child, just being able to play and develop your true own Self-energy, your own individuality with something that I feel like I’m still grieving and working with.

And so, yeah, the hero child, I think that sometimes the hero child might have a different temperament, and I wonder now if I had a happier temperament than the rest of my siblings simply because I was the first born and maybe my mom had more Self-energy to give to the first one versus the third one, you know? Now that I’m a mother and I can empathize with that experience, I wonder if she just had less to give the more children that you add on, which is probably also why I only have one child. [Laughs] 

Rebecca Ching: [Laughs] There is something about the roles too.


Deran Young: Yeah, I think there’s a lot of truth to that, the birth order and the roles, and I think there’s a lot to that, yeah. So I think maybe it was just my temperament that was a gift and a curse that I was the first born. I was uber responsible. I still struggle with over-responsibility. I think a lot of eldest children become therapists and healers and doctors and leaders, you know, natural-born leaders kind of a thing.

I’ve been leading since my sister was born. She’s one year younger than me. So I’ve been leading for a very long time to the point where it’s natural, but Self-leadership is what I’m focused on these days. How do I lead the things that are going on inside of me? How can I be with the inner child that’s still there needing things from me versus focusing so much on the external world?

Rebecca Ching: That’s the work. That’s the work. The hero child, “I got it. No problem. Don’t worry about it.” I mean, we see this all the time with folks that are founders, folks with high-powered positions, and then we also see how that takes them out, they medicate, they try and manage, they comfort, they numb in ways until it’s not sustainable. And so, I really appreciate you sharing a little bit about your story.

You mentioned something too about that developmental phase that Erikson talks about, that zero-to-two phase and on building trust. What’s been your evolution of trusting yourself and others as you are in all these various leadership roles in your life?

Deran Young: Yeah, the path for me as far as trusting myself has been that I’ve had to get to know all the parts that don’t. Going back to IFS, IFS really helped me — Internal Family Systems. Seeing my system as an internal family and having all of those parts of my family that didn’t trust themselves either. There is a lot of mistrust in the world and in ourselves. There is a lot of fear and uncertainty, as Brené calls it, and I’m learning to integrate those parts of myself. I’m learning to be with those parts so that they can get to know me and get to trust me, and trust is something I’m learning you can’t rush. You can’t have an urgency around the trust process. Whether that’s with another human being or with some internal aspect of myself, I’m really learning to trust the process as well, having a higher power, going to 12-Step meetings and really trust that things work out somehow and that I’m not in charge of all the world’s problems, you know? [Laughs]


Like I said, as a hero child, we’ve developed that over-sense of responsibility and not knowing what’s actually appropriate for our age and for our capacity. I notice that in a lot of leaders at work. They don’t understand what’s in their capacity and what’s not. And I tell you, the hardest thing for me to learn was that changing other people is not in my capacity. Even as a therapist, even as someone who specializes in human behavior, it’s not my job to change another human being. It is their own work to do. [Laughs]

Rebecca Ching: I love that you said that. It’s so funny; just the other day I had a client who was frustrated with a long-term pattern with her husband. She’s like, “Can you give me some tips on how to help him become more aware of it?” I said, “No.” She’s like, “What? You’re not gonna help me?” “No! We could talk about how his choices are impacting you, how to speak how you feel, and in the impact of his choices, sure. But we’re not gonna — no.” And she was just shaken a little bit, and she was like, “Okay, I get it now.” I was like, “No! I’m not gonna help you with that.” [Laughs]

Deran Young: It’s interesting. I’ve noticed that as a pattern, you know, from parents. That’s where that pattern comes from. A lot of our parents use overpowering as a learning mechanism or a way to manage discipline and behavior.


So when our children are used to being overpowered, they are going to find someone else to power over, you know? Versus giving them and powering them to explore their power within, allowing them to have choices, allowing them to have autonomy and a voice. I was telling my niece about gentle parenting, and she was like, “Where was that when I was a child?” [Laughs]

Rebecca Ching: That’s funny, gentle parenting. Because the eighties — I grew up in the eighties, and it was like see-ya parenting. [Laughs] I don’t know what — something’s-in-the-freezer parenting. There was some beauty, I think. I still have some — maybe I’ll check on that. There was some beauty in some of that freedom, but maybe that’s nostalgia glossing over it.

I really appreciate, though, the things you’re bringing up because we experience that as that’s the kind of parenting we experience. We can continue to replicate that. I mean, you and I probably could sit down and talk for a long time about the folks that we’ve worked with or things that we’ve witnessed about that, seeing that replicated in schools, in faith communities, in businesses, in nonprofits and so on. We just continue to do what we know. It’s something that comes up because I think people feel like if they’ve had this kind of wounding in their story or they’re still carrying this identity about pushing through, that connecting with empathy and showing compassion, it just feels so unjust [Laughs] to them. “Everyone’s gotta suck this up and push on through!” And it’s just breaking us down.

Deran Young: I mean, I’ve wobbled in that a lot, being retired military. That’s the thing I tell people. I’m very intimate with that.


What we call it in the military is mind over body, that you can think your way out of anything, [Laughs] but then your body starts to respond to that after a while when you don’t have a thyroid like me or when your hormones are all over the place or you have some other chronic illness. Is that when we really want to be pushing for, you know? Are we pushing to slowly break people down, or do we want to intentionally focus on building them up?

Rebecca Ching: For sure.

Deran Young: And when you have done the work to be with those parts of your own inner child that needed to be built up, I think you have more of a desire to share that with other people. So what I tell people is legacy burdens are real, but we can also transform them into legacy gifts.

Rebecca Ching: You got it.

Deran Young: And there are children all around us who need a patient, loving, gentle, soft adult to just be with them, you know, just see them and hear them. Not that you can change it or you can fix it, but you can allow them to rest in your own Self-energy.

Rebecca Ching: It’s so true, and we talk a lot about witnessing in the IFS community, the power of just witnessing those parts in us, but man, other parts are like, “This is inefficient. I don’t want to witness this. This is too painful.”

Deran Young: [Laughs]

Rebecca Ching: Even just with my kids, too, I think about sitting with them and their choices and I’m like, “All choices suck right now, but you have choices, so let’s walk it through.” But even that, before we get to that, that’s just like, “What’s going on?” And not even saying anything and just listening and attuning. We don’t do that well. It’s super uncomfortable. I think a lot of folks want to, but then the other side, especially with gentle parenting, I’m seeing this backlash, like this shadow side, where clients are like, “I wasn’t gentle today!” I’m like, “Are you trying to do perfect-gentle parenting? Because that’s actually kind of –.”


What I’m seeing now is perfect-gentle parenting. “I wasn’t regulated. Now I feel horrible, and my kid’s gonna be in therapy the rest of their life.” I’m like, “Well, I mean, your kid might be in therapy, but let’s just try and shift the generational patterns. Maybe it’s something else!”

But even then, there’s this piece of, “No, I have to be perfectly regulated,” [Laughs] and, “I have to be kind all the time versus being authentic.” You know, it’s not even kind. It’s this forced, “Tell me more. Mm-hmm.” It’s weird because inside they have all this other stuff going on. They’re like, “My kid, it’s a crayon, it’s just a crayon,” and they keep screaming. Like, we’re not authentic with ourselves. We don’t witness what we’re feeling, and then we beat ourselves up if we’re not perfect in our forward-facing, and I see that translate from parenting to whatever roles folks have outside of the home too. So it’s just tricky with the pressure that we put on ourselves.

Deran Young: So I look at everything systemically, and I see that mothers, very similarly to leaders, there’s a lot of pressure from the culture to not be human.

Rebecca Ching: Right?

Deran Young: I experience that myself. It’s like, “What do you mean you have feelings? What do you mean you get sad? What do you mean you don’t always feel up for it or at the top of your game?” People can really pedestalize leaders and mothers and anything that’s seen as a role of admiration and responsibility.

Rebecca Ching: [Sighs] Yeah.

Deran Young: But I’ve been really looking at the gifts of imperfection, you know, going back to that work from Brené Brown, and we actually have a 12-day series coming up, myself and Aiko, who’s another Dare to Lead facilitator. We’re gonna be doing a 12 Days of Gifts of Imperfection because she works for Stacey Abrams, and I think also when you’re at a very high level (you know, being a captain in the military), we can both relate to this high level of pressure to not be human. And then now, like I said, after I retired from the military, I had to go to the 12-Step meeting to discover how to just be a human. I tell people 12 Steps taught me that human stands for Humbly Understanding Mistakes Are Necessary.


Rebecca Ching: [Laughs] I love it!

Deran Young: Especially in military medicine. Yeah, in military medicine, it was like people die when we make mistakes in medicine.

Rebecca Ching: Right.

Deran Young: And especially in the military. And so, there was a lot of pressure to try to be perfect at every turn, every angle. And so, I’ve had to really work with that part of me that wanted to be perfect, that thought that perfection was ever possible, and then really learning that humbly understanding that mistakes really are necessary in order for me to learn and grow and to connect to the people around me, because people are definitely not perfect, you know? They don’t come in any perfect package, and it could be messy, this world of intimacy and relationships. 

Rebecca Ching: It is messy. It just is. You know, I’m reminded, speaking of Brené Brown, there’s a chapter at the very end of her book, Daring Greatly, that doesn’t really get a lot of — she did some CDs on it, but it’s around parenting. And it was such a gift to me, and it’s now part of my mandate where it’s not about being perfect; it’s about how we own our mistakes. Perfection is a sneaky mofo, right? As Brené’s taught us, it’s shame’s best friend. It’s its right hand.

And so, when we see perfection, I’m always like, “What’s going on? What are you trying to shut down? What are you trying to protect from?” And it’s just been so, actually, surprisingly good for me with my parenting with my kids when I mess up to go, “I messed up,” and just to practice the reps there.

[Inspirational Music]


Rebecca Ching: Leading is hard. Leading is also often controversial as you navigate staying aligned to your values, your mission, and 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 polarized world can help you identify the blocks that keep you playing it 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 actionable and aligned.

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 and where you deepen the capacity to tolerate the vulnerability of change, innovation, the echoes of relational wounding, and doing things differently than you were taught.

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]


Rebecca Ching: I’m curious, as you’ve done a lot of your own work while you help others to do that, what are some of your tells or common protectors that come up when the echoes of your relational wounding are activated?

Deran Young: Well, this may be really surprising to some people, but I have a very aggressive side, [Laughs] to say the least. And if you practice or study the Enneagram, then you know that the two, when they go to eight as stressed, it can be really big and really scary and really fiery.

Rebecca Ching: Uh-huh.

Deran Young: And so, the goal for my personality type is to integrate and take better care of myself so that I don’t always feel so pushed to the edge where I feel like I need to lash out at the people that I care the most about. And so, I’ve been really working hard at that lately. It’s the repeat offending part of me that likes the F word a lot or will say something really snappy, you know, that later you’re like, “I really feel bad that I said that.” [Laughs]

And so, yeah, for me, it’s working those edges, the eight edge that I can sometimes have, the harshness that I learned in my childhood and how I learned that was how everyone protected themselves was to say something really mean or to kind of be passive aggressive or, “I’m not gonna talk to you!” You know, all these things that I learned in my family. Learning how to set boundaries so that I don’t have to do that.

I love Terry Real’s work. He says that a lot of people who typically or traditionally are stuck in the one-down place of shame, when we’re activated or when that trauma is triggered, we’ll go into a one-up position.

Rebecca Ching: Mm.


Deran Young: Like I can feel myself looking down on someone else, you know, whether it be over political differences, because that’s my favorite one. [Laughs] It’s like, “Oh, you don’t see things the way I see things? What’s wrong with you!” [Laughs]

Rebecca Ching: Right.

Deran Young: And now seeing that aggressive — it’s really like a polarizing part, it wants to push you away, and it works. When you push people away, you look up and you’re all alone. You’re in isolation. And so, after the military, I had to learn a new strategy of how to be close to people and not constantly push people away. I’m still working on it.

Rebecca Ching: Me too. I mean, it is, though, such a reflex. It’s such a protective reflex. Well, first, I want to say I love that one of your tells is anger. I just had Soraya Chemaly on the show. I don’t know if you’ve read her book Rage Becomes Her? But if not, run, don’t walk. I think you’re gonna love it. It’s a gorgeous book, and she’s an incredible, incredible human. And so, anger really is a powerful tell. But man, when it’s — Brené talks about it’s an activating emotion and it’s a horrible life partner, right? That’s kind of my summary of what she says. But I loved that you named that. I think particularly for women, we’re taught to exile until it just explodes.

But you said something, too, about re-learning to be human, and it’s amazing how to survive trauma, we have to disconnect from our humanity, right? To dehumanize someone, we have to disconnect from our humanity. To survive it, we have to disconnect. And then the reconnecting process is almost like adulting. For those that have survived childhood or early-in-life trauma. It just got me thinking of just when we lose our sense of our own humanity and/or the humanity of someone in front of us, I mean, it goes dark quickly.


There’s something about anger that helps us connect with that, again, as it is complicated in how we express our anger. All those things need to be interrogated, of course. But reconnecting with our humanity means feeling a whole lot of shit, but just the humanity piece, there’s something about when I sense my anger I feel alive, but then when I’m swimming in the deep end of it, it also goes dark.

I’m curious, when you look back at your body of work and all of the different things you’ve done in your career, was there a pivotal moment in your career path in how healing your legacy burdens helped you move forward in ways that were bringing more healing and health into your life?

Deran Young: Yeah, I will say that there were two really pivotal moments. The first one (and I thought would be the only) was when I went to Ghana, West Africa in the middle of graduate school at The University of Texas. I didn’t see a healthy representation of African people in the curriculum for my Master’s of Social Work at University of Texas. So I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity there to go to Ghana, West Africa and be there for two semesters to really soak in their healing practices and what keeps them well, what keeps them deeply connected to each other even when they feel like they have nothing else.

So that was something that was very pivotal to my perspective on life, my perspective on relationships and family and community and definitely on my work and healing, especially healing the legacy burdens of racism.


But then, recently, within the last five years, I think I’ve had another pivotal shift where I discovered psychedelic-assisted therapy, which I really do see as the number one treatment for intergenerational trauma because when you’ve been raised with something, when you’ve been conditioned into something that feels so normal, it feels as normal as breathing, and I tell you not to, it seems counterintuitive. And so, it’s like we need a program reset, we need a chemical reset in our bodies, often, to really make those shifts that feel completely foreign to our body.

So psychedelic-assisted therapy is something that’s helped me tremendously with my racial trauma, trauma around patriarchy, sexual abuse. Anything that felt like it was gonna be with me for the rest of my life is still with me but in a very different way. It no longer feels like a burden. It sometimes actually feels like it can be used as a gift.

Rebecca Ching: I had Victor Cabral on the show to talk a lot about his mission with psychedelic-assisted therapy and psychedelics, plant medicine. And I’m wondering, for you and your experience, because a lot of people — it’s still not legal in a lot of places, and there are a lot of great research studies going on. But there are a lot of folks that are seeing this as big business or maybe a quick fix? What would you say to those listening that was crucial for you in making your experiences with psychedelics a positive for your healing?

Deran Young: What was different about me is that I’m not your typical “drug user,” you know? I was a DARE kid. I watched my mom struggle with addiction, as I said, so I was very anti-alcohol. I was anti-every-substance, unknowing to me the whole time I was addicted to sugar and carbs. I tell people I was taught that mushrooms were a drug and McDonald’s was food.


So we really have to question everything that we know about what is healthy for our body in this system of profit and hyper-capitalism. I think the fact that we’ve been pushing antidepressants that we know don’t often work, typically, it takes people three or four different medicine trials before an antidepressant actually brings them any relief from their own depression or mental health challenges. And so, the fact that the things that don’t work have been pushed so heavily, we have to question what might work, especially if it’s something that’s natural or grown from the earth.

So that was the first place that I really started to really question the medical model in the sense that just because someone’s pushing me a pill doesn’t mean it’s the solution. I also saw that with the opioid crisis. On my way out of the military, I had a few clients that struggled with opioid addiction, and by the way, they were prescribed those medications. These were medications that were now ruining their lives and were initially given to help them. Being inside the medical system, being a social worker in the medical system, I think paved the way for me to explore these things and gave me a level of privilege to know about what was available to me.

And so, the first place that I always tell people to start is ketamine-assisted therapy is actually legal, and even in places like Lawton, Oklahoma where I currently am in a very rural part of Oklahoma, there are two ketamine clinics here. They’re popping up everywhere, and it’s because people are starting to see relief from very chronic depression, years of suicidal ideation. They’re starting to see very rapid relief from these life-long challenges.


And so, we’ve had to really get innovative and think outside the box on what could help us because we’ve known that the things that have been pushed and heavily promoted for the last 20 or 30 years haven’t really given us the fix that we hoped for.

Rebecca Ching: And one thing that Victor and you and everyone else who teaches about psychedelics talks about set and setting. What was so important for your experiences in the set and setting that really helped them be positive?

Deran Young: Yeah, that’s one of the reasons why I really push starting off with maybe ketamine-assisted psychotherapy because it is an emphasis on therapy. There’s an emphasis on making sure there’s someone there that is trauma informed, someone there that can help you develop a relationship, a trusting, caring relationship so that you can go to deeper places than you normally would.

When people talk about some of their recreational use of psychedelics, I tend to shy people away from that because when you hear of a “bad trip,” it’s typically because they didn’t have someone there that they trusted or they were at a party or some environment where it wasn’t therapeutic, it wasn’t a healing place, it wasn’t someone that can empathize with you. It was just a random place with random people, and that’s typically what I’ve seen when people talk about having a bad trip.

Rebecca Ching: I’m curious, what do those younger parts of you that you’ve done so much work with, think about you and the life that you’re living today?

Deran Young: They really feel like I became the hero that the family wanted, not for the family but for myself. I often look at my life, and I’m like, “Wow.” I’m in amazement. I’m in awe, pure joy, often, and in so much gratitude for the journey. I just want to share that with as many people as possible. I want people to know that this is possible, that you can come from a background of a lot of trauma and still experience a lot of joy in the same lifetime.


Rebecca Ching: As we wrap up, how has your understanding of success changed since you were younger, and what does it mean to you today?

Deran Young: Oh, I’m gonna look up this quote from who I call Mama Maya Angelou:

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”

To me, that just about nails it. That is the goal of this phase of life for me. I want to like what I do, I want to like who I am and who I’m sharing myself with and how I’m sharing myself with other people as a leader or as a friend or as a family member, and I want to like how I do things, you know? I think there’s a loving way to do things and there’s a fearful way to do things, and I used to do everything from a place of fear, and now I’m so intentional and so focused on doing things from a place of love.

Rebecca Ching: Thank you so much. Before I let you go, I want to ask a round of quickfire questions that I ask guests. What are you reading right now?

Deran Young: I’m reading a book called Whole Brain Living by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a Harvard-trained neuroanatomist. [Laughs]

Rebecca Ching: Okay, so some light and breezy reading there.

Deran Young: It’s very compatible with the IFS lifestyle, yeah.

Rebecca Ching: Nice. What song are you playing on repeat?

Deran Young: “Cozy” by Beyoncé.

Rebecca Ching: Mm, I had someone else just bring up that song the other day. What is the best TV show or movie that you’ve seen recently?

Deran Young: Recently, we’re stuck on repeat with my five-year-old niece, the Disney movie Elemental, which is teaching me a lot about fire and anger. [Laughs]

Rebecca Ching: [Laughs] I love it. What is your favorite eighties piece of pop culture?

Deran Young: Anything Madonna. That always brings me right back to the eighties and the nostalgia of pop music and cross-cultural connections and everyone coming together.


Rebecca Ching: Absolutely, and she’s going on tour this year! What is your mantra right now?

Deran Young: Oh, I don’t really have one. I would say I have quotes, you know? I live by the words of our ancestors, and I guess this is a mantra, some people would say, but we are our ancestor’s wildest dreams. Each and every last one of us, wherever we are on the planet, I believe that our ancestors did a lot for us to be here, be present at this time in this space, and I truly believe that we are all living the manifestation of the dreams of our ancestors.

Rebecca Ching: That’s beautiful. What’s an unpopular opinion that you hold?

Deran Young: That everything will be okay. You know, especially in times like right now, politically, I truly have to believe in gritty faith. I have to believe that everything will be okay even when it looks like it won’t be.

Rebecca Ching: I appreciate that. Who or what inspires you to be a better leader and human?

Deran Young: I will say, as I mentioned before, Dr. Maya Angelou who was also a mentor of Brené Brown and Oprah Winfrey. So I feel like I’m in a well-supported connection and circle of amazing women who are doing amazing things in the world. Largely, how I’ve gotten to connect with you! So I’m grateful.

Rebecca Ching: Likewise, likewise. Deran, thank you so much for coming back on the show and for another just really important and powerful conversation. If folks wanted to connect with you and your work, how can they find you?


Deran Young: I would recommend following us on Instagram. We do have a brand new TikTok channel that we’re building up, so follow us there if you’re on TikTok. @blacktherapistsrock on Instagram. @blacktherapistsrock on TikTok and Facebook. We also have a website: www.blacktherapistsrock.com or you can follow @deranyounglcsw on Facebook.

Rebecca Ching: Deran, thank you so much for your time and for sharing so much of your heart and your wisdom. I really appreciate you!

Deran Young: Thanks for having me!

Rebecca Ching: I want to make sure you take some of the incredible words of wisdom shared by my Unburdened Leader guest today, Deran Young. Deran is one of those leaders who often has me busting out my Notes app when she speaks while simultaneously leaving me in tears of gratitude because she’s just so freaking good at naming things that I’ve struggled to name and speaks just truth with such power and love.

And in our conversation, Deran shared how relational trauma can cause us to see vulnerability as weakness, and if we have that lens, we won’t have the skills to have hard conversations in a healing way with ourselves and others. She also noted how unhealed trauma that stays unspoken and unacknowledged snowballs not only through us and those we love and work with, but through the generations. And Deran noted that one of the main casualties of relational trauma is our capacity for intimacy and connection, which can lead you to recreating these disconnected experiences in work and in life.

How do relational wounds impact how you lead today? Are you hard on yourself for not being over past struggles that keep showing up? And what shifts do you want to make in how you lead yourself so you can build more capacity for vulnerability?

One of the most insidious aspects of trauma comes from your relational wounds like betrayal and neglect. And we can counter the impact of our relational wounding by choosing to befriend, witness, and heal those wounds and their echoes. And this is the ongoing work of an Unburdened Leader.

[Inspirational Music]

Thank you so much for joining this episode of The Unburdened Leader. You can find this episode, show notes, and free Unburdened Leader resources, along with ways to work with me at www.rebeccaching.com.

And I’d be honored if you left a rating, a review, and shared this episode with those you think might benefit from it. Thank you so much for listening, and thank you to the team at Yellow House Media who produced this episode!

[Inspirational Music]

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meet the founder

I’m Rebecca Ching, LMFT.

I help change-making leaders get to the root of recurring struggles and get confidently back on track with your values, your vision, and your bottom line. 

I combine psychotherapeutic principles, future-forward coaching, and healthy business practices to meet the unique needs and challenges of highly-committed leaders in a high-stakes world.

This is unburdened leadership

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Everybody’s carrying a burden that’s weighing them down. If you dare to care, it is inevitable you will end up carrying the burdens from grief, betrayal, and rejection. And these burdens are often unseen. These invisible struggles fuel loneliness, shame, and despair. Eventually, the unaddressed burdens we carry start to impact our ability to live […]


EP 27: Frank Anderson, MD – Challenging the Fear of Rejection and Leading with Vulnerability – Part 1

We watch leaders crash & burn all the time. We watch with morbid fascination as leaders fall out of grace because their unaddressed pain led them on an unsustainable path of poor choices–even dangerous and deadly choices–to avoid feeling the vulnerability of rejection. Those times when you experienced the pain of rejection leave their mark […]


EP 21: Leading With Body Resilience with Co-Author of More Than A Body, Lindsay Kite, PhD

Caring about those you lead means caring about the harm you may unknowingly be doing. Many of us who fit western standards of beauty and live in conventionally abled bodies don’t understand how our choices can cause pain. We’ve internalized ableism and fat-phobia to the point where we can’t even grasp how our words & […]

Mental Well-being

EP 19: Defining Your Own Version Success with Natalie Borton, Founder of Natalie Borton Designs

The quickest way to crash and burn your business and life is to place your worthiness and safety with the opinions of others. This may sound like a captain-obvious statement but the pull to care what others think is something fierce. And it is sneaky. The competitive drive is no stranger to many of you. […]

Work-life Integration

EP 17: Community Over Competition with Co-Founder of The Rising Tide Society Natalie Franke

Community over competition is indeed a well-worn hashtag. The cynical can dismiss it. Those beat up by year after year of injustice understandably call BS. But in practice, leading with the lens of community over competition is subversive and culture-shifting. Community over competition requires deep life-long work to unburden the load we carry of scarcity […]

Leading Teams

EP 02: How Self-Leadership Saves You From The Relentless Drive To Succeed with Dr. Richard Schwartz

My body was telling me to take a step back and reevaluate. Five years ago I had pneumonia and I couldn’t really do anything other than prop myself up on the couch and breathe… …breathe and think about how I ended up in this mess I’d run myself into the ground. My schedule was full-to-overflowing. […]


And clearing the way for a more innovative, inclusive future.

Unburdened Leaders are breaking
cycles of workplace burnout…

Are you about this, too? Let’s meet and see if I’m your coach – no expectations. Just connection.