About me – the brief version
Hi, I’m Rebecca. Born and bred in New Zealand, I spent four years in the Police, and eight years as a volunteer Lifeline telephone counselor. In 2014, I graduated from the University of Auckland with a PhD in Health Psychology – the study of the interaction between mental and physical health.
And stuff happened in between. Here’s some more detail …
I’m handy in a fight
I joined the NZ police at the ridiculously young age of 20. Even worse, I was immature for my age. I still am, but now my immaturity is more of an asset than a liability. While I had two key skills for succeeding in the police – I’m handy in a fight and can scull a jug of beer (the latter being especially impressive as I don’t like beer) – my physical courage did not extend to the paperwork.
Overall the experience fueled my passion for social justice. Despite my early years growing up in a state house in Porirua, I never lacked for food, books, or a warm bed. The same cannot always be said of the children of gang members and associates.
Saving lives. And not.
Lifeline is a free public crisis phone line. While I couldn’t stop my uncle from taking his own life, it eases the pain remembering the Lifeline caller – a young man – who said he’d decided not to kill himself after talking to me.
While I stopped volunteering at Lifeline around 2013, joining the organization was one of the smarter decisions of my life. I learned so much about myself and I miss the callers. Sadly, part of the reason I left Lifeline was the organization was disintegrating. It’s now under new management
My PhD involved four years playing with healthcare robots. Weird, I know. Just think mobile computers stuffed to the gills with mental and physical healthcare devices and software. After that, I had the good luck to consult part-time for Taska Prosthetics over a four year period – helping develop robotic prosthetic hands that were useful and easy to use. A good prosthetic can transform lives. Fascinating and rewarding work.
Cats and humans
Barely domesticated myself, I live in crazy, beautiful New Zealand surrounded by feral cats and gorgeous humans. You can see a 1-minute video of my feral puss doing her obstacle course here. I trained her to make the point that the broad psychology strategies of behavior modification and habit change are the same for everyone – they don’t discriminate between species.
From sceptic to spiritual
This has been a weird thing. As a spiritually-inclined frolleague (friend + colleague) enjoys reminding me, I told her around 2018 that “I’m not into spirituality!” Things have changed. As I told my friend, I was very anti-spirituality. Partly as I conflated it with religion – and had Some Very Bad experiences with religious exes. And partly as I conflated it with really messed-up, new-age types. Their crystals and fairy dust didn’t seem to be doing them any good.
However, I had a number of strange experiences which convinced me otherwise – some of which I’ve documented here, including: What REALLY happened at the Tantra workshop, and My encounter with the clairvoyant dominatrix.
Overall I find the spiritual aspect far more INTERESTING than mainstream science. However, I don’t see spirituality and science as mutually exclusive. Not at all. In fact, spirituality used to be part of psychology. The split seemed to happen with the rise of behavior science. Ironically, I love behavior science (have you seen my cat video yet?) and it is very compatible with spirituality – offering different perspectives on the human condition.
Some of my new spiritual beliefs are relatively ‘out there, ‘ whereas some are almost mainstream. An example of the latter is the trending construct of MSC, or mindful self-compassion. Demonstrating the compatibility of science and spirituality, MSC has been ‘proven’ by science to benefit both body and mind. A randomized controlled trial showed people with diabetes who were trained in MSC, not only had significantly reduced psychological distress, they also had significantly improved blood glucose control.
My engineer partner doesn’t exactly love my interest in spirituality. He be happier if I stuck to mainstream science. However, as he pointed out, he knows I’m fascinated by the human condition, and spirituality is a part of that. Also, his father has seen a ghost.
As well as being a Vietnam veteran, my partner’s father was a Beefeater at the Tower of London. One night, he saw a man walking across a room, and disappearing into a wall. Oddly, the figure was wearing socks. The next day he mentioned it to a colleague. The colleague asked if the figure was wearing socks. Upon hearing the affirmative, the colleague replied that that would have been the ghost of so and so. Back in the day, military personal working in that part of the tower wore socks, not the standard hob-nailed boots. This was because ammunition was stored in this area, and sparks struck by hob-nailed boot could result in something quite untidy.
The colleague then said to my partner’s father, “See, your man is in the ghost book.” And there was indeed hand written entries of sightings of the sock-wearing ghost. Sightings of ghosts around the tower are so common, it turns out, that the Beefeaters keep record in their own ghost book!
Importantly, the Beefeaters aren’t exactly into crystals and fairy dust. They are pretty much the exact opposite. They are battle-hardened, highly decorated military veterans. Make of this what you will.
About me – the longer, gossipy, version
…I’ll tell you about how I left university at the age of 19 with a handful of C’s, a few ‘Did not completes’ … and one A in psychology.
However I left university with something much worse than my crappy grades – I felt like a failure. Which is the loneliest feeling in the world.
I’ll tell you how my obsession with habits stated. I returned to university at the age of 35 and overcame a sense of failure, bad study habits and procrastination to achieve a PhD. It helps majoring in psychology.
I’ll tell you about how I was both bullied and a bully. I’ll tell you what the sex therapist said to me on our way to a burlesque show. I’ll tell you about the horror of discovering that I’m a control freak. I’ll tell you what it’s like being in control freak recovery.
I’ll show you how to make and break habits. I’ll explain why there is no such thing as laziness. Seriously. Laziness does not exist as a legitimate psychological construct. I’ll tell you what so-called ‘laziness’ really is.
I’ll tell you about my embarrassing stuff-ups. I’ll explain how to overcome fear of criticism. I’ll show you how to failure-proof yourself. I’ll tell you about the life-altering event that happened to me at the Tantra workshop.
I’ll explain why ‘self-esteem’ is complete crap, and why unconditional self-worth is the new season look (shout-out to Brené Brown). I’ll explain how, never mind the other people, forgiving others is good for you.
I’ll tell you how after an excruciatingly painful marathon of singledom, abusive relationships, and internet dating, I finally broke my heart open. 2020 Update: the hunky Pirate has been on the scene for a while – more on him soon!)
We don’t need to be perfect
I’m telling you these personal stories for several reasons.
One reason is to illustrate psychological strategies I’ve used to life-changing effect on myself and others.
A second reason is I feel strongly the key to better mental and physical health is getting over the fact that we are not perfect. And that we don’t need to be. And realizing the pretending is exhausting us.
As humans are a profoundly social species – feeling we are alone in the world with our imperfections can be a profoundly distressing experience.
I felt defective
Due to difficult family circumstances, I grew up believing there was something wrong with me. That I was defective & unlovable.
I’ve since realized the only thing wrong with me was I believed there was something wrong with me.
So I deeply hope that sharing my personal stories, along with my clinical & academic experience, will help you realize that you are not alone.
I hope you realize that the only thing wrong with you, is that you think there’s something wrong with you.
There is nothing wrong with you. There never was. There never will be.
Nothing that can’t be fixed with a few simple psychological tools anyway.
Wishing you all the very best things in life. You deserve it.
It starts with us.
P.S. Coming soon…The book! A step by step guide for rapid habit change – incl. procrastination!
As well as my blood pressure sky rocketing whenever someone mentions it takes 21 days to change a habit, I worry about how many people are suffering unnecessarily for lack of simple psychology tools – how many people struggle with procrastination, and believe they have so little self-control over their unhealthy lifestyle habits they’ve given up making New Year’s resolutions.
My book provides the psychology tools I developed and used to get myself from university dropout to PhD – and have been using ever since to help others. Despite many busted deadlines with the book writing, I’m pleased with the book. I’ve had great feedback on it and hope to release it by mid 2019. You’ll be the first to know!
Here’s some feedback on a chapter of the book. The testimonial is from Kristen Wonch, founder of The Workshop – a co-working space in Auckland, New Zealand:
We hosted Rebecca to present a workshop on beating procrastination through habit change & mastery. It’s the best feedback I’ve had from our residents after any of our ‘lunch & learns.’ Some of them implemented Rebecca’s psychology strategies the same day and commented it was “life changing.” The response was so impressive we’re having her back for a 6-part series!
You can read plenty more testimonials, and get more of an idea of the kinds of things I help people with, here.
In the meantime, you may wish to subscribe to my charmingly erratic newsletters for the latest goss, progress on the book launch, and detailed psychology strategies for rapid habit change.