Melanie Smith started her career as a platinum-selling, international songwriter, and an award-winning actress. She is now a Master Level Coach who, having experienced much loss in her own life, is passionate about helping people in their healing. Melanie coaches her clients in all areas of relationships, love, loss, business, health, finance, branding, and creativity as they teach her every day that anything is possible, providing living proof that through hard work and commitment, we can all grow, change, and succeed. Her compassionate new book titled Unfinished Business: 8 Steps to heal Your Trauma, Transcend Your Past, and Transform Your Life is a user-friendly guidebook for the heart that is infused with hard-won wisdom from Melanie’s own experiences with grief, loss, and trauma.
IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL HEAR ABOUT THINGS LIKE:
- How a scrawny, sickly, small-town kid became a successful performer, creator, and producer in the entertainment industry for nearly 30 years.
- How Melanie faced and healed her wounds after losing both her mother and sister within four years, another sister later on, overcoming divorce, financial restructuring, and walking away from two major carers in her life.
- Why grief and trauma are doorways to possibility and purpose.
- What inspired Melanie to become a Master level Coach, and the ways she healed, studied, and prepared to live her true purpose.
- How Melanie guides her clients to shift their identity from the victim mindset to the student mindset.
SOME QUESTIONS IRENE ASKS MELANIE:
- How does untended Unfinished Business create what you call an “emotional hairball” in us?
- What are some of your 8 actionable steps that help to clear out the heartbreak, trauma, and grief of the past?
- Why is Lifestyle crucial to mastering our best life and taking full ownership of our destiny?
- Why is it important to heal on the soul level?
- Why do you describe grief as a constellation?
- How did the loss of your precious sister Roseann lead to a profound spiritual awakening for you?
- What does gratitude have to do with finding joy, even in times of struggle?
Watch the episode here
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Melanie Smith: Loss, Trauma and Heartache Can Provide a Life-Changing Doorway to Possibility and Purpose
I am delighted to have this opportunity to interview Melanie Smith, a master-level coach, who having experienced much loss in her life, is passionate about helping people in their healing. Melanie coaches her clients in all areas of relationships, love, loss, business, health, finance, branding, and creativity as they teach her every day that anything is possible, providing living proof that through hard work and commitment, we can all grow, change and succeed. Melanie started her career as a platinum-selling international songwriter and an award-winning actress. She has starred and co-starred in shows such as As The World Turns, Melrose Place, Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Deep Space Nine, and The Division, to name just a few.
Her numerous accomplishments also include the development and management of an award-winning lifestyle, wellness, and yoga center, being a powerful motivational speaker, writer, and leader, and being a contributing writer for many national health and wellness magazines. She released a compassionate new book titled Unfinished Business: 8 Steps to Heal Your Trauma, Transcend Your Past, and Transform Your Life. Unfinished Business is a user-friendly guidebook for the heart that is infused with hard one wisdom from Melanie’s own experiences with grief, loss, and trauma. In it, she describes her eight-step actionable process that can help a person overcome heartbreak, emotional wounds, limiting beliefs, old patterns, and unconscious habits.
As well as the negative self-talk, self-judgment, overwhelm, and misalignment that holds people back from succeeding in love, relationships, business, finance, and health. I’m looking forward to talking with Melanie, who splits her time between Pennsylvania and Florida about her personal struggles with grief, trauma, and heartache, and why she considers grief and trauma to be a doorway to possibility and purpose. The way she guides her clients to shift their identity from the victim mindset to the student mindset. Her new guidebook, Unfinished Business, and so much more for what is surely going to be an insightful, wisdom-filled, and inspiring interview with a remarkable person. Melanie, a warm welcome to the show.
Thank you so much for having me, Irene.
Thank you. Now that they know how amazing you are, let’s start out. Let’s talk about your childhood. I can’t imagine you ever being a scrawny, sickly small-town kid.
From a successful performer, creator, and producer in the entertainment business for 30 years to open one of the most celebrated wellness centers in the nation. One thing we know about you is you’re never idle.
No, I’m not.
Let’s hear about the beginnings of Melanie.
I was very skinny because I was very sick. I had major surgery when I was eleven months old which was my first trauma. Being sick is traumatic as a child. Back then, they didn’t use anesthesia on babies which only paralyzes you. It didn’t anesthetize you. I can actually remember my surgery and then going in and out of the hospital.
At eleven months old, that’s amazing just by itself.
You and I chatted briefly about the fact that in the shock of that leaving the body and being in a completely different realm. We don’t know for certain what any of it is, whether that was a death experience or an out-of-body experience. It changed the trajectory of my entire life. I was in and out of hospitals for eleven years, which is a good and bad thing. It was challenging because my playground was basically the terminally ill section of the hospital for children. The good news was I made so many friends. We’re still kids. We lean in toward play, love, and connection.
If I see a little girl and the dress was like mine, I’d say, “Same-same. Matchy-matchy.” I would want to make connections. I learned in that experience what it meant to make connections and the meaningful nature of being human. There I was healing through the years, and I was different. I was very skinny. I couldn’t wear the clothes that the other kids wore.
If it’s private, I completely respect it. It’s not a problem but can you talk about what was wrong with you?
It was an eventration of the diaphragm. I had a hole in my diaphragm, but my intestines had pushed their way up and actually pushed my heart into the section of my throat. They had to go in and bring everything back down through the diaphragm, restation it, close the diaphragm, and hope that it stayed. Eventration of the diaphragm is not enormously uncommon, but this advanced and aggressive stage of it was. They were treating me for asthma for eleven months. Finally, my father said to my mother, “If we don’t get her to a better hospital, she’ll die.” Now, it gets worse. They take me to the hospital CHOP in Philly, and they’re prepping me for surgery. They gave me salmonella poisoning.
My parents who had five other children had to leave me in the hospital to go home and take care of my siblings because they didn’t know when I’d recover from the salmonella. When I recovered, they called my parents and said I was going into surgery. That was the day Kennedy was assassinated. Nobody could travel. Roads were closed all over the country. I was left alone. By the way, when they made the announcement about Kennedy, it was during As The World Turns, which was my first job.
There’s never-ending drama in your life.
No. I lived a soap opera. I was on soap opera. It was a very auspicious beginning, let’s just say that.
How many years of your life were you in terminal care until everything was straightened out?
They finally told my parents at eleven years that I didn’t have to come back to the hospital anymore. For those years, let’s talk about the mantra-ing in my life, which is one of the aspects of the book. What are the mantras? One of my friends shared this with me years later. She said, “It was so crazy going to your house. Your parents and everyone always say, ‘Treat her like she’s normal and she’s going to live.’” That did a little bit of the opposite of what you thought it might have done. It made me incredibly physiologically ambitious. I became an athlete. I was always up a tree and a dancer. I was so in touch with my Physiology, which of course now leads to my talents as a coach and an energy reader because I’m so alive and connected to my soma.
It gave you such a passion to be alive. How did you go from doing all of this in the entertainment business, which I guess you somehow fell into it, or however that happened?
The entertainment business is a whole other story. That is a remarkable story. I never thought about being an actress ever in my whole life.
You didn’t study for it or do any of that?
No. When I started on World Turns, I studied. I always say the universe doesn’t necessarily pick the qualified, but it will always qualify who it picks. Once I got on World Turns, I went holy and I better go learn. I did. I spent all my off hours studying the craft of acting. Let’s stop here for a second. Why was I chosen? Was it to spend my life in the field of acting or a couple of things? I used to say to my mom, “I just want to live in Oakdale.” I did. Also, I got to spend years of my life embodying another traumatized person and surrounding myself with traumatized people. That’s in the daytime, correct? It’s not my baby. It’s not his baby. He left me. It’s all this trauma and drama.
As we know now what’s in the fields of therapeutics, emotional therapy, and psychology is very much like psychodrama. I got to act out a human emotion that was not mine. I got to live inside the experience of someone else in the realm. The character of Emily was profoundly traumatized. That experience got me in touch with many things in my heart, soul, and being. My mother came down with terminal cancer.
That was a huge turning point for you. How did you segue from the entertainment business into opening a wellness center? You didn’t do it small or tiny little wellness center on a corner. You opened one that was a celebrated wellness center in the nation. There’s nothing small about you.
It was spectacular. This place was so beautiful. I had been in the industry and was very successful. I did incredible projects. I worked with amazing people. Interestingly enough, I probably turned down more roles than I took. I’m a firm believer that I didn’t want to represent or be out in the world representing something that I thought could damage someone else’s psychology. I loved it, yet as I started experiencing more trauma. I talk about this as well in the book. I saw my mother have her first stroke when I was five. I then found her after she had a massive stroke at eleven and I had to get her to the hospital.
At eleven, you had to get her to the hospital?
Yes. When the ambulance was going away, they forgot me. I stood there until dark, not knowing if my mom was dead. She survived. She had breast cancer, then she had cancer that she died from. My father had had a series of strokes. He had lost 75% of his sight and about 70% of his hearing. That was very hard on the family. My mother died and then my sister was killed in a car crash. As these things were happening, I was noticing that something was going on in me internally that was very separate from what was going on intellectually in my mind. I found that incredibly curious and decided that was something I wanted to understand. It’s funny, we spend so much of our life going, “Why am I here? What’s the purpose of life?”
First and foremost, we are here to understand ourselves, not just stand for ourselves. How many of us are walking around on this planet tolerating and standing ourselves? We’re here to understand ourselves. What is in there? What is going on? What is my patterning? Through that dissecting and deep understanding of the self, we start to be able to make better choices for our life.
The other thing that’s striking me, and please correct me if you don’t agree, but it seems to me that your childhood was your first exposure to Unfinished Business. Your mother and your father were so sick. They had to have tremendous unfinished business to offset all of these issues. What’s the word I’m looking to trigger all these issues?
My father’s father killed himself. My father found him hanging. My mother’s mother died when she was five. Her father, who was a diabetic amputee and very wealthy, used my mother because she was so beautiful to take to court when he was being sued for taxes, etc. Her other sister, who was not beautiful, basically abandoned her. My mother had to struggle with half the time she was with her father in this mansion who was very wealthy. On the weekends, she would live with her aunt and her cousins in this tiny apartment feeling guilty about going back and forth.
She had survivor’s guilt about her sister.
You have all of these things that were tamped down in my parents’ existence, and they lived a profoundly traumatic life. I even say that in the dedication of my book. I dedicate this to all the traumas that you’ve survived and the love you were determined to give regardless. This is not unusual because generational trauma is all pervasive in all countries. It’s not just this country. Look how traumatized everyone is in Ukraine right now. There’s so much trauma all around the world.
I think that trauma is part of the reason that we’re having all these problems in the world.
It’s 100%. If we can’t rest in a place of neutrality inside of our own being and we are constantly searching for something that has nothing to do with peace of mind, how can we have a world without chaos? People are searching for the wrong things. I’ll tell you the first poem I ever wrote in the third grade. I wish I brought it down here. It’s still in my handwriting. It says, “The world is not a prison house. It’s nothing but a spiritual kindergarten where a group of bewildered infants is trying to spell God with the wrong blocks.”
First of all, I have to say how amazing that was that you were so profoundly introspective in third grade. I read that in your book and it blew me away. I was almost going to put it in the interview. I said, “There was so much to talk to her about. I’m not going to include that,” but now you have. I want to tell everyone if they’re not blown away enough. You lost your mother and your sister within four years and another sister later on. You overcame a divorce, financial restructuring, and walking away from not 1 but 2 major careers in your life. How did you do all this? Was it a constant healing turning to different modalities? You had to be in the depth of despair plenty of times.
Despair is a very interesting concept to me. For some reason, I’ve never believed in suffering. Have I felt sorrow? Absolutely. Have I been exhausted by heartbreak? Absolutely. Have I felt insurmountable anxiety? Yes.
How did you surmount the insurmountable anxiety with so many other people also experienced?
I went in not out. I didn’t go to the places that were taught to go, which are seeking out attention, support medication, and self-medication. I went, “What’s happening to me? What is going on in my system? Where is it landing in my body? What is trapped?” Now I’m not saying everyone can do this. This is part of my purpose and curriculum.
That’s the insight you got from the times you were so sick as a child. That’s how you were able to tune in that way. That gave you a gift.
Yes. I even say in the book, “I do believe the children who are traumatized early get a crack in the universe.” We start to look, “Why me? What’s the torch I’m meant to carry?” I don’t know why I logic this, but it didn’t seem reasonable that so much should happen to one person that wasn’t meant to be used. My father had a philosophy. He says, “Melanie, nothing ever goes to waste whether that was a piece of chicken on a plate or a lesson that you learned.” When I went through my divorce, my father said to me something so simple. He said, “Keep your eye on the sparrow,” which is a spiritual way of saying look up to the light. I follow that.
I think that near-death experience instilled in you a lot of wisdom also at that very young age and lit something in you that prepared you for what you’re doing now.
It gave me a tether of certainty. I love using this example. I don’t know if anybody out there plays tennis. I’m not a good tennis player, but I played it. I’m pretty embarrassing. What I do know is you can hit the ball over the net. It feels different than when you hit the ball over the net by hitting the sweet spot. The vibration of the sweet spot is specific unto itself. I was reborn at eleven months knowing the sweet spot of life. I knew what it meant to be connected to something greater in its purity.
That is always what I’m searching for. It’s to be connected. They’ve done a study on how many times we try to walk when we’re infants, and I forget how many thousands of times we try. That beautiful philosophy of “we never give up,” not because we don’t feel defeated, but because we know what we’re going for. That feeling inside of me taught me what I’m going for.
It sounds to me like in your coaching business, you help people to know what they’re going for. They’ve been taught a certain mindset that this is what I should be going for but it sounds like you connect them to who they really are and what they need to be going for.
One thousand percent. It is why the people who come to me come to me. I work with people from school teachers all the way to major global CEOs. It’s so funny because none of us are all that different.
We were all the same basically.
I had a CEO come to me years ago who wanted to lose 65 pounds. I also have a Cert in Nutrition. I worked with him and he lost all the weight. He came into my office about to burst into tears. I said, “What’s happening?” He said, “I thought I came to you to lose weight, but I came to you to be happy. I don’t know how to do that.” It’s a perfect metaphor. Getting away from what we think is making us unhappy so that we can find what’s truly making us unhappy is part of the key to the work of healing.
Tell me why you describe grief as a constellation. I know you see all this grief and trauma as a doorway to all this possibility and purpose. That’s an unusual term. I’ve never heard grief described as a constellation.
In my experience of working with thousands of people in grief, trauma, and heartache, what I notice is it never appears the same. When you listen to the stages of Elisabeth Kugler’s work, you see so much grief work that has that philosophy. I have never experienced that with any of my clients. Maybe 1 or 2 have come in with the data that they’ve adopted from that work. She’s done beautiful work. I do think that before Elizabeth died, she also said, “Maybe this isn’t so accurate.”
A lot of people say it’s not as linear as it was presented.
Its not. Grief, loss, and trauma are not at all linear because we are so different as energetic beings. You can see on the book cover, that’s very much about the shattering of the energetic self because the constellation moves around from the system it was naturally designed to be. When we’re traumatized, heartbroken, or struggling with severe loss, we’re starting to understand this amalgam of trauma. What we see is the linear energy system. We can look at Western sciences, the nervous system, and the bundles that are in that innovate into the spine and innovate the organs, they align perfectly with the energetic chakra system. That’s complicated to think about so we won’t focus on that.
When we look at the way people present their symptoms of loss, it’s always different and it shows up differently in the energetic system. I do look at it as a real energetic constellation. I can’t address loss and trauma from an intellectual standpoint. I have to feel it from an energetic standpoint. It is a constellation. It’s not a line, not a circle, not nice and neat. Someone’s shattering of center can blow a part of themselves all the way up and down here and then cluster the rest in the center. I work with where the energy is stuck and where the energy has fled. Those are constellations.
That’s fantastic. I know the loss of your precious sister Roseanne led to a profound spiritual awakening for you because there’s nothing colorful about you. It brought you an important insight into the reason each one of us is here in this lifetime, including why you realized your true purpose was to become a master-level coach. You want to talk about the spiritual awakening to the important insight about our purpose to your purpose.
The loss of my sister had its own form of magic.
You were also younger. I know you’re 1 to 5.
I’m the baby. I spent the weekend with my sister at her home. I will never forget this. She was walking around the room doing things and I heard a voice say, “Pay attention to everything she does.” I watched everything she did. I didn’t talk that much and I’m a talker. I watched her hands and her walk back and forth. I noticed her hair, her skin, all of that. We then drove into New York City together. She was the buyer of a beautiful gift shop.
I just got to ask this. Were you used to hearing a voice in your head telling you? My story is the quote that I got from these profound messages.
I always hear voices. I even talk about it in the book. Right before my mother died, a voice said, and I said it out loud, “This is the end of Mother’s Day.” As we know it, my mother was dead three months later. I just paid attention. Now we separate. I go back to Los Angeles and she leaves a message on my answering machine that says, “I heard you got engaged,” which I did. I’d already picked out my dress. My sister was really funny. She’s like, “It’s a size four.” I’m laughing. I thought, “It’s 11:30, I’ll call her back tomorrow.” I had a meeting at MTM.
I was leaving the meeting and I get a call from my dad. Something is wrong. I call him back from a friend’s house and I find out that my sister was killed in a car crash. She had dropped her daughter off and then went to pick up her son nearby. Somebody ran a stop sign. I was devastated about this. We were so close. We looked almost exactly alike. We sounded exactly alike. She was just so great.
She’s your older sister. You’re everything.
Yes, we were. After that happened, the beautiful, generous, may she rest in peace, late Angela Lansbury called me. I had worked with Angela before, and she said, “Darling, I heard your sister died. Let’s get you back to work. Let’s keep you busy.” The biggest philosophy, “Get busy,” is not the answer but I was very grateful for the work. As I was driving to the lot to film, I looked up and there was a rainbow over the studio lot, but not just a faint rainbow. It was like a Disney rainbow. I pulled my car over and I started to cry, but they weren’t tears of sadness. It was, “You’re coming to see me?” I sat with that rainbow, and with my sister Roseanne, who was called the Queen of Hearts, until it faded away.
I felt such a sense of knowing this awareness around why we make ourselves suffer and assume we know that because someone has left this Earth is a bad thing. We don’t know that. We know we suffer. We miss and love them. My mother was my best friend. I used to say to my son all the time, “You can always ask God questions, but you can never question God. Period.” Who are we to say we know better? We need to find in ourselves the profound awareness that we have to love fully now so we don’t suffer and regret tomorrow.
It reminds me of the first message I got two months before my husband died in our car and the accident was piped into my head. “Saul has to go. Many lessons will be learned from his death. Who are we to say?” I didn’t have a choice in that.
You had a choice in that. It’s how you reacted to it.
It sustained me because I put it out of my mind but when the accident happened and two more messages followed, I was prepared and accepting.
There is something at play we don’t understand. There’s a beautiful understanding of God will only give you what you would ask for if you knew everything God knew. God won’t give you the things you ask for that are not worthy of you. We have to start trusting that there is meaning and purpose. When we start to look at belief systems, modeling, and mantras, the bill of goods was sold. When I was watching my father die, which was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. It sounds counterintuitive to say that, but I had asked the hospice doctor, “Why did you go into hospice?” They were the happiest group of doctors I had ever seen in my life.
You would think it was a carnival. I was like, “What is up here? You people are like the lollipop guild. What is going on? Why did you choose this?” He said, “What I’ve always found fascinating is people celebrate the whoosh of life that comes in, but they don’t acknowledge the beauty of the whoosh of life that goes out. It’s the same thing, different direction.” Again, we don’t know. When you read Eben Alexander’s book Proof of Heaven.
I had him on the show.
It must have been so fascinating. I was reading that when my dad was dying. I had the most incredible experience when my father was dying. Understanding having an openness, don’t pretend to know for certain anything. Once we concretize the way we see life and we fall in love with a picture, we reduce the possibility of the true self to emerge.
That’s true in a lot of people’s lives. I see it all around me are concretized and there’s no peeking out of the box that they set for themselves. How did you realize your true purpose was to become a master-level coach? What did you do to get yourself so fabulous?
I discovered my true purpose through resonance. I resonated in certain areas and I felt disconnected in others. The more I found myself becoming successful in the entertainment industry, the less connected I felt to my purpose.
Did you know what your purpose was or you didn’t know yet?
I didn’t know yet, but I knew where I chose to spend more and more of my time. That is a dividing rod to where you’re meant to be. As I kept pushing in the wrong direction, I felt not only less myself, but I felt physiologically ill. I was somaticize a lot of that disconnect. The more I went towards the things I was meant to embody in this lifetime, the more healing I experienced, and the more joy, love, and natural knowing I experienced. When I started to become highly fascinated with this stuff, I’m not an academic necessarily, but I am an intellectual. I love to consistently learn and information. It’s like yum. I can’t get enough.
If you ever talked to my fiancee, he’s like, “I don’t understand how you read all the time.” I love it. I started not just looking for the highest-level teachers in all of these fields, but they started finding me too. I started studying, apprenticing, and traveling. I started with yoga meditation and went into chakra work and archetypes. I had already been a student of Psychology and Depth Psychology. I studied Bioenergetics. I went as far as to study Behavioral Economics so I could understand the play between what is our psychological behavior because there are so many people coming to me around money issues.
Money issues and trauma are inextricably linked. The people who can’t make enough money and who can’t stop making money. The people who only make money and don’t make love. I don’t mean that physiologically but don’t churn love in their life. They make money and suffer, struggle, have heartache, loneliness, and depression.
They’re the ones who maybe have a richer personal life. They need to make more money or be more successful but they’re stuck in that area also, right?
Yes. I talk about this in the book and it’s my own nomenclature. It’s charge changers from a young age when we first start needing to get away from ourselves. One of the things we know is early on, women and girls tend to be disembodied from their bodies. Young boys tend to be disembodied from their hearts. We, as girls, are taught to leave and abandon our bodies. It’s not good enough, too skinny and fat. We don’t have boobs, tushies, or whatever it is. They won’t love me or like me. From my physiological existence on the planet, I don’t look like what they want to wear I was teased as a child. I was so skinny. I couldn’t wear the clothes everybody else so I got teased mercilessly. My sisters teased me.
It’s amazing you had the self-confidence to go into the entertainment industry because that’s all about what you look like.
One of the things I believe is, my one sister told me every day how ugly I was. I would walk up to the mirror in the bathroom and I’d go, “You are not ugly. Don’t listen to her. You’re pretty enough to get a job and have a life.” I would do that balance with myself. When you’re teased like that and you create a charge changer, we reach outside ourselves to soothe ourselves.
Whether that’s food, attention, getting perfect grades, having perfect hair, making people laugh, starting to do drugs, starting to drink, whatever it is, we move the charge. What is the charge? It’s the activation of unresolved energy in the system that creates either an overcharge or undercharge, that’s depression, overcharge anxiety hypervigilance, physiological aggression, etc. Undercharged are depression, low-level eating, slothfulness, inability to decide, and inability to focus. Those are the two sides of the same coin.
Is passive-aggressive behavior like a piece of the social?
Passive-aggressive behavior is the inability or the fear of expressing the self. That’s a learned behavior because if you either learned that if you expressed yourself, you would get in trouble or abandoned or it was modeled. You’ll see there are cultures that are passive-aggressive. Oftentimes, you can literally find it within cultures. I love my Italian friends. They tell you like it is. I remember I was at a friend’s house. They were this loving couple. When they’d fight, they would say this thing in Italian that was so aggressive. I don’t even want to say what it means because it was awful. Fifteen minutes later, they’d kiss and make up. That is aggressive.
I have other friends, like my beautiful Irish Catholic friends, which my mother was, they’re all passive-aggressive. They won’t just say it. They’ll either say something under their breath or do something that lets you know that there’s unhappiness. These are beautiful, charming personality traits that we’ve come to love. If you like comedy, you see how universal they are. Passive-aggressive is the reduction of the self. It’s a punishing of the outside world because you don’t have the strength to express who you are.
You’re so wise. There’s something else I want to ask you, but I don’t want to run out of time for the rest of our interview. I’ve got two other questions. I have a bunch more to ask you. You talk about a three-brain theory and you also talk about an emotional hair wall. What would you like to tell us about those?
What I love about the three-brain theory is that science is substantiating now. What is a brain? A brain has to have an intrinsic nervous system and neurons. It has to be able to communicate. The brain here, which I in the book call the royal brain, is in charge of everything and we consult it all the time, which is a shame actually. The royal brain has 80 million neurons, what I call the REAL brain, which is Relationship, Emotion, Affection, and Love. What I call the real brain is the heart which has 40,000 neurons. The root brain, which is the gut, has 100 million neurons.
The information in the gut is even more profound than what the brain parses out. What happens is the royal brain never innovates down. The royal brain makes decisions here. It doesn’t go like, “What do you think guys?” The root brain and real brain are always innovating to try to express something is going on. Now we’ve learned how to not listen.
That’s why a lot of people will be saying, “Listen to your gut.”
You have to learn your gut because sometimes the gut is wrong only because we haven’t healed it. The first brain that ever unfurled in our being is the root brain. We have to start learning to go, “What do you think?” I work with my clients on how to have what I call whole-body listening and whole-body communication. I coach whole body. If I was only my royal brain and you tell me something and I would go, “Irene, that’s really interesting,” and I did not embody this, I would buy your baloney. Since I’m listening whole body, I might go, “Really? Let me hear more about that and I’ll be watching your bioenergetics. I’d be watching where the charge is showing up in the body.” Now you ask me about the emotional hairball.
Loss, grief, and trauma are cumulative. Every time something happens to us, we tamp it down until as we get older that emotional hairball cannot come up and out. That’s why we start experiencing later in life when coping mechanisms don’t work quite as well. That emotional hairball is what’s creating depression, anxiety, illness, etc. We have pressed so many things down in our being that it’s sizable and we don’t know how to cope with it. What do we need to do about that? That’s what the work in the book does. It is we start to parse out every threat. Not only where, how, and why did you learn it. When we suffer a loss, we think something as gross as my mom died, but my mom didn’t just die. All my dreams with her died.
My sense of safety in the world, best friend, role model of being a female, vision of my own success through making my mother happy, and sense of trust left. We don’t unpack each loss issue for what it is, which leaves tendrils of it inside of us. I go through loss categories in the book. I encourage everyone to make their own last categories. I lost my dad and the money he owed me. I lost a financial conduit. It doesn’t all have to be dreamy and nice. You may have lost and suffer with an incomplete channel of emotion. I never got to say that. I want to be able to say that. That’s what I talk about even at the beginning of the book. “Who would you be if you got to say everything that’s left unsaid?”
Good thing for me. That’s what I talk to people about all the time. It’s a very simplistic thing. In agreement with you, the night before my husband died, I didn’t know that the accident was happening the next day, he said to me, “I’m so lucky and thankful to have you in my life.” I hold onto that. What if he had not said that? It gave me a sense of completion and helped me to move on but so many people don’t hear that. I’ve been in galleries where people are hysterical because they had a big fight with their father, their mother, or whatever it was the night before they unexpectedly died and there’s so much they didn’t get to say.
That right there is the opportunity to find meaning. It’s an opportunity to know yourself better, not, “Next time I’ll say the right thing,” but who do I need to be to trust that the people around me know how loved they are whether or not I say the words? God forbid anything happened to anybody in my life now, no one would leave not knowing how much I love them. Not necessarily because I said to them the day before, “I love you so much, you are blank to me,” but because I live it.
You act love. It’s a verbal sum thing but they don’t back it up with your actions. On that beautiful note, I want to talk about how about giving us an example of someone who had unfinished business and they didn’t complete it and how that ended. Someone you’ve known who’s healed their unfinished business and how that ended up. Have you got a couple of succinct good examples?
I’m going to give you a universal example or what I like to call an archetypal example. Let’s look at someone like Marilyn Monroe. If anybody out there is too young to know who she is, I don’t know what to say about that. Google her. Here was somebody who had profound trauma. She was in orphanages. She had a mother who was crazy. She was molested from a young age. She’s a beautiful girl. She went from the trauma of being totally unloved, or so she thought, to find in her charge changer through her sexuality how to feel loved and the illusion of feeling loved. She built her life on that charge changer. On that, what I call in the book AACT, Acceptance and Approval Areate Tricks.
She built this persona or this AACT out in the world. It did not have anything to do with her darkness and pain. She latched on to the goddess archetype in everything she did. She was a complete caricature. She was the epitome of the goddess archetype. She never healed her child and the victim in her. She never healed that part of herself that could have filled her up so much that as she got older, she could have dropped the goddess.
She could have gone to be a sage, a wise woman, or one of the most legendary character actresses but she didn’t. What did she do? She destroyed herself. She became an alcoholic and a drug addict. Eventually, we think overdosed. That is the deterioration of the self in service of the AACT. That’s the deterioration of the soul in service of the ego. Until we parse that out and start dissecting what is really me? What is no longer something I need and can let go of the freshness of my spirit and soul can emerge and build a life for myself that may look like nothing else. Now I will juxtaposition that. Had I not worked on my trauma and loss and I kept going and fighting for a life that was serving my false self, I too may have ended up somewhere other than where I am now.
Through healing my trauma, knowing my true self, being able to merge with the truth and the original memory of who I am, my purpose, and depth of soul, I am literally one of the happiest people you’ll ever meet. You know the loss and trauma that I’ve been through and I’ve been through even more than what I write about in the book. I thought people would go nuts if there at all.
I think the difference is because you healed to what you’ve done, which is definitely part of the mission of this show, you don’t carry that trauma and loss as your backpack to take with you everywhere in your life. You feel like you can drop it. That’s why you’re open. You can feel this joy.
I love what the Buddha says about the two arrows. The first arrow that hits and wounds us, we can’t control. Life throws arrows. The second arrow is our reaction, which is our response to the first arrow. That’s what we can control. We have to live life understanding how to control the second arrow. That comes from healing.
That leads me right to your book. In your book, Unfinished Business: 8 Steps to Heal Your Trauma, Transcend Your Past, and Transform Your Life, you guide your readers to clear out the heartbreak, trauma, and grief of their past. Make space for joy, hope, and possibility, which we’re talking about. Do you want to highlight some of those eight actionable steps for us that you talk about? What else would you like everyone to know about your book? Why should they go well rush and get it for themselves?
First of all, I encourage you to get it because I want you all to live the best life possible. This work is lived through me. This wasn’t just something I studied. I have been using this work on myself and my clients for decades. In my own personal alchemical laboratory of my own soul, I have proven to myself and others that this work. It’s not only actionable and doable, but it’s repeatable for healing your spirit, your soul, and your past. If we look at some of the steps to highlight, first, we want to unearth what has happened. It’s so simple. You have to start to look at the truth of your past.
You want to till the soil as I say in the book. You want to start to understand where what it is you believe in, what messages you consistently tell yourself, and the behaviors you act out into the world. What are the silent mentors of your future? What did you learn in the past that literally guide you to the future that is not real? They’re yours. They’re real to you. We all have them, but they’re naturally not real. I had a client that came to me years ago. She and her husband fought all the time about how to clean dishes and they were going to get a divorce over it. It was about the way they use sponges.
We came to the fact that the parents were so adamant that dirty people use a sponge this way and clean people use a sponge this way. It was so beaten into her that it was like a source of life, but it’s not true. It’s understanding what are the messages, the models, the patterns, the beliefs, the behaviors. We start to understand where trapped trauma is in the body and where loss has accumulated in the system. The system constantly gives you hints. Do you know when somebody says something and all of a sudden you can’t think about anything else? I call them hot thoughts. That’s charge.
Now there’s a good charge. You make out with a boy or a girl. That’s a good charge. When you see a movie you loved and you let it fill you up, that’s a good charge and that’s a healthy charge. We want charge. It’s the key to being alive. A misdirected and misguided charge is destructive. We have to understand and start to learn how charge shows up in the body. I teach you how to read charge and how to find what you do when charge is active. What is it you do that makes you abandon yourself? You’re going through an experience. Instead of staying with the experience, you drink, or you turn on the TV and eat, etc.
We have to learn to sit with what it is we’re experiencing so the charge can complete. This is all Peter Levine’s work, Bessel van der Kolk, now Gabor Maté. This is about learning to let the charge come up and out of us so that it can complete and leave the system. We move on to who these charge issues belong to. Who is the person or the people in our lives that have hurt us or activated or created so much pain in our lives? We learn the process through transactional writing, and how to let these things go. We go to restructuring and reframing life and then the design of our future.
I’m sure when you work with people, sometimes the design of their future is totally different than when they came to you.
Unbelievable. I have seen not only people go in a different direction, but become these profoundly powerful, impactful human beings on this Earth. It’s a complete 360. For some people, it’s a shift that clicks them right into their sense of purpose and an accurate alignment and their joy grows exponentially.
We’re touching on the fact that you call lifestyle our mission, and we’re talking about the lifestyle that we create. You get people, in a way to change their lifestyle, by working with you. You also talk about how it’s important to heal at the soul level. What does that mean to you? You had a near-death experience and gotten to that soul level. How do they identify that?
One of the things I talk about in the book, a lot of people, my publisher, my editor, everybody, had little something to say about this. They’re like, “Do we keep it there? Do we stop people from going right into the work?” I have a glossary of terms. Do you remember that in the book? I felt it was important that people have a working definition of every term that I use. There are 6 or 8 terms that I define in that short glossary. One of the reasons I decided to give a definition of the soul is because everybody has this assumption that everybody knows what the soul is. I feel like people love metaphors. I think metaphor helps us leap in learning.
One of the things I talk about in the book is, remember that time when you were young and you would go outside to play? Kids now maybe you’d be on your game playing, I don’t know. Maybe they don’t go out as much. You are in that space where all time disappears and you don’t even know that it’s going to be dinner. In our generation, we’re outside and on our bikes. We’re on the tree swing, climbing up a tree, in a court, or we’re playing dodgeball. Somebody yells it’s dinner and we’re like, “What?”
You were out there for 6 hours and you thought you were there for 1 minute. That’s your soul. That’s being in flow. That’s when you are cradled and couched in something that is simply bigger than you. You are living your bliss. That is healing at a soul level. You want to chip away the layers that keep you from that level of beingness. When you live at that beingness, nothing is impossible. Life is free.
It’s like helping people to remove their masks.
Exactly. You live the wrong life if you’re going into life as the wrong person. Let’s get you to be the right person, and then your life will magically snap into place. I’ve seen it countless times.
Do people have to work with you for a very long time to get to that space or do sometimes the synapses come together very quickly?
I have had people work with me for six months. I also have people who work with me on a lot of things. I also work with people to help them see their business. Businesses are traumatized. Businesses have souls. I always try to make the distinction. People think businesses are this magic thing and I go, “No, it’s just a building or four walls with a bunch of traumatized people trying to sell something.” If we all healed, it would shift the way all of the chaos on the planet is dealt with.
I’m with you. Speaking of that, now that everybody would like to check out what it’s like to work with you, do you have a special offer for members of the show?
Yes. I have never offered an introductory session before, and I would love to offer a much lower price for that one-hour session with me. I’m typically $500 an hour, but I would love to offer our viewers $175 for the hour and then we can figure out a million things that you want to really unearth and heal. I think that would be a great thing. Also, with the book, I can help guide you. We can go through it and look at the system together.
That’s wonderful. Thank you. I love to end with something about joy, and I know the work you do brings you great joy. What does gratitude for you, Melanie, have to do with finding joy? Even in times of struggle, can we really find joy when we’re struggling?
I wake up every day no matter what’s happened, and I plant my feet on the ground. The first thing I say is, “Thank you for my perfect life.” What do I believe about that sense of gratitude? Everything in life is physics, and we resonate with the vibrations that we are. We don’t get what we want, we get what we are. Have you ever seen a J-trap under a sink? The water will never be uneven because it seeks its own level. We vibrate what we draw to us and we draw to us what we vibrate. I believe that as we live in gratitude, no matter what, gratitude draws to us, which is grace. Gratitude is grace in action.
Do you do this even when you’re in the struggle? You know that they’re on the part that you’re grateful for, even though this part right now is something to be figured out.
Correct. Life is challenging for every one of us, but we can’t withhold our love, our joy, our peace of mind, and our inner well-being because things get hard sometimes. We have to live with the same amount of courage, gratitude, and love when we’re in the valleys as when we’re on the peaks.
It’s better spoken. Melanie, the mission of the show, which is to educate, enlighten, and represent healing choices that can lead to transformation and rebirth is so deeply in sync with this heartfelt, uplifting quote from your life-changing book, Unfinished Business: 8 Steps to Heal Your Trauma, Transcend Your past, and Transform Your Life.
I loved this quote. “May you live your highest, most profoundly beautiful life. May you carry with you the wisdom and clarity required to navigate life’s challenges and call your spirit and power back home. May the accumulation of unfinished business be a thing of your past. May you move forward in your life knowing that no matter what the future holds, you will remain rooted, grounded, and empowered in the clean and nourished garden of your soul. Carry on your beautiful gardeners and soldiers of the highest good. The light within me salutes the light within you now and forever.”
Thank you from my heart, Melanie, for all you do to help people heal and evolve through your powerful and wise coaching through Unfinished Business, which is your user-friendly guidebook with its actionable steps for emotional health and authentic well-being. This insightful and powerful interview that I know has inspired many in our audience on their healing journeys. Make sure to follow us and like us on social at @IreneSWeinberg on Instagram, Facebook, and wherever you get your shows, including YouTube. As I like to say, to be continued. Thank you so much, Melanie.
Thank you for all the beautiful things you do.
Thank you. Bye for now.
- Melanie Smith Website
- Melanie’s Book: Unfinished Business: 8 Steps to Heal Your Trauma, Transcend Your Past, and Transform Your Life
- Connect with Melanie on Instagram and Facebook
- Reach out to Melanie for 20% off her book and 50% off of one session or power session at Melanie@WorkWithMelanieSmith.com
- Eben Alexander’s interview on The Grief and Rebirth Podcast
- Eben Alexander’s Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife was referenced in this episode
- IreneSWeinberg on Instagram
- Irene Weinberg on Facebook
- Irene Weinberg – Grief, Rebirth + Healing Podcast on YouTube
About Melanie Smith
Melanie Smith has worked in the field of heartbreak, grief, trauma, transition, loss, change, reinvention, and all things Unfinished Business for over two decades and has helped thousands of people change their lives profoundly. She started her career as a platinum-selling international songwriter and award-winning actress, starring and co-starring in shows such as: As the World Turns, Melrose Place, Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Deep Space Nine, and The Division, to name a few. As an entrepreneur, her award-winning lifestyle, wellness, and yoga center was considered to be one of the most well-respected in the country by sources such as Vogue, Yoga Journal, Philadelphia Magazine, and others. Now a powerful motivational speaker, writer, and leader, Melanie has been a contributing writer for many national health and wellness magazines and holds the distinction of being an PCC-level ICF certified coach and an ICI-master-level coach. She is the proud mother of one grown son, Gideon. Born and raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania, she presently splits her time between New Hope, Pennsylvania, and Naples, Florida.