Nipping Dysfunction in the Bud: Attending Personal Mastery on the Cusp of Adulthood

African American Mother And Adult Daughter Relaxing In Parkby Jonathan London

LaL’s flagship seminar, Personal Mastery, is a life-changing journey of self-reflection and discovery. Because of the transformational power of the seminar, it’s not uncommon to hear older participants, energized by a new realization or considering the long-term impact of an ingrained behavior pattern, wishing they would have done this work twenty or thirty years earlier. 

While most of our clients are at least a couple of decades into their careers, some are lucky enough to have attended Personal Mastery on the cusp of adulthood. One such client is Talia, who attended her first Personal Mastery at age 17 and has since graduated from our 4-Mastery program. Talia is now 25, living and working in New York City. We recently reconnected to talk about the impact that Personal Mastery has had on her, and on her once-strained relationship with her mother. Here’s what she had to say:    

Getting to the root

In high school, I was really detached and experiencing a lot of negative emotions, but I lacked any awareness of what was behind these feelings. This distress manifested in self-harm, eating problems and drinking too much. At the Personal Mastery seminar, I began to understand the roots of these behaviors. I saw how, despite the pain these behaviors were causing my family and me, there was also a way that they made me more interesting — I was “messed up” and really identified with (and benefited from) that image in my peer group.

I also started to see how I was reacting to some of the norms in my family. Growing up, I often received the message from my mom that I always need to be positive and I should never complain even when I’m sick or going through something difficult. In a way, my extreme behaviors were my counterproductive way of demanding that she acknowledge the difficulties I was having.

Finding compassion for my mom’s humanity

These realizations opened up an important dialogue with my mom, who was attending the seminar with me and having her own epiphanies. She vulnerably shared that she had an older sister who had died before she was born and, at a subconscious level, she felt that it was her job to be happy and upbeat. It was a form of compensation for the sadness her parents must have been experiencing. This led to a belief that children should be cheerful and happy.

It was an “aha!” moment for both of us. It helped me to forgive her for some of the ways she had treated me. I saw her as a person with a story. She saw that I deeply needed her support and she began to recognize when she was acting in that space of needing to be positive. Over time, she started to allow me to experience more of what I was experiencing without judging.

The slow road to a new behavior — asking for help 

It took me a while to fully overcome my “acting out” behaviors, but my first Personal Mastery allowed me to at least take a step back and understand what was going on for me. It was a very important step. When I realized that these behaviors were my way of getting my parents’ (and others’) attention when I was in distress, I started the process of stepping into healthier behavior. I started asking for help.

It sounds so simple, but this has made a huge difference in my life. Before, I either silently suffered or communicated my pain through acts of self-destruction. Now I seek the support I need in a direct way.

Enjoying the fruits of our vulnerability — a healthy relationship

The result of all of this is that our relationship is a billion times better than it was. We’re more vulnerable and simpler in our interactions. When we do have conflict, it doesn’t spiral into a gigantic thing. Things come up between us and we resolve them. And I’m better able to articulate my needs to her when I need her to listen or I need advice.

The few times we’ve had a more drawn-out conflict, both of us were able to examine our histories and patterns to understand what was actually going on, rather than being frustrated and not knowing why.

On the other side: using my experiences and awareness to support others

The “LaL” way of dealing with conflict is something I use all the time, and not just with my mom. Recently, I had a 45-minute conversation with a new colleague who was reacting in a not-so-effective way to feeling excluded and unvalued. Thanks to the awareness I have developed over multiple LaL seminars, I was able to recognize what he was feeling. And by using the communication techniques taught and practiced at Personal Mastery, I facilitated a constructive conversation that has ultimately led to us working together more harmoniously.

Without LaL, I probably would have scolded him for acting so unpleasant, creating even more disconnection. I think this example really sums up what Personal Mastery is all about.

Gratitude and connection

Overall, thanks to LaL, I feel better about myself and have a deeper understanding of my strengths, what I need to work on and my patterns. I use the tools and framework everyday, and this has helped me to lead a more productive, less melodramatic life. I’m very grateful for my participation in Personal Mastery and other seminars, and I would highly recommend it to others on the cusp of adulthood. In fact, I’d be happy to talk with any young adult considering attending Personal Mastery — don’t hesitate to reach out.

If you’d like to speak with Talia about her experience at Personal Mastery, email me at and I’ll put you in touch.  And, as always, I welcome your comments in the field below.  The next Personal Mastery seminar runs June 19-27, 2013.


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