Overcoming Addiction and Listening to the Soul with Dr. Elisa Hallerman

December 9, 2022

Overcoming Addiction and Listening to the Soul with Dr. Elisa Hallerman

December 9, 2022

About This Episode

As entrepreneurs, we often talk about growth and how we can be better, quicker, more agile, and more productive—but it isn’t enough for us to grow “up.” We also need to learn how to really dive deep and, as our guest for this episode of Brilliant Thoughts, a Success magazine podcast, said, “to grow down into the essence of who we are.”

Understanding ourselves, and any unhealed trauma that might be feeding into our behaviors and beliefs that hold us back from achieving what we really want is crucial for all of us. In the current world we live in, with the pandemic and a prolonged sense of uncertainty and anxiety, the devastating decline in mental health among both young and old alike is alarming.

That’s why Dr. Elisa Hallerman, our guest, decided to share her journey to sobriety from alcohol and substances. She wrote her book, Soulbriety, hoping to ignite conversations about addiction, trauma, and overcoming those wounds long-term by reconnecting with our soul and digging deep into the essence of who we are.

From being an attorney to managing people in the entertainment business to getting her master's and doctoral degrees in Depth Psychology and Somatic Studies, her unique path led to the creation of her business, the Recovery Management Agency. 

“I think with my clients, a lot of people were looking for a way to take back their sense of agency and to be able to work on themselves as well—because no one understands you the way you understand yourself,” Elisa shares. And the method she has found that works for her and her clients is soul work.


At its essence, Soulbriety is “a soul-centered approach to recovery from addiction and trauma,” as stated on her website.

According to Elisa, addiction is “a crisis of meaning” and is tied to unhealed trauma 99% of the time.

After being sober from alcohol and drugs for five years, Elisa still felt unhappy. And along the way during her stellar career in the entertainment industry, she realized in retrospect that what she was doing was really just trading one addiction for another–“I wanted to get that title, get that office, get that client, get that car, get that house, get that guy and I started to become addicted to money and power and prestige,” she shares.

As humans, it is easier to look at external things to make us feel better. Digging deep and dealing with our problems from the root is difficult—it is messy, painful, and takes a lot of time and resources—and our western way of life doesn’t give us much room to slow down and do that.

But, “The only way we're going to get consistency and long-term recovery is by doing the inner work,” Elisa says.

She started asking herself questions such as “Am I happy?” and took time to examine what it is she really wanted to do. Eventually, she decided to quit her career and start a new one, hoping to learn more about addiction, be of help to more people, and be on the front lines of mental health.

However, her experience and skill set in managing talent remained vital in her new venture. After getting her master’s and doctorate degrees in Depth Psychology, she managed to make the Recovery Management Agency the business that it currently is.

She devoted herself to answering the question: “Could doing soul-centered work help with long-term recovery from addiction?” and the answer is yes.

During the lockdown period, with more people suffering from mental health issues, she decided to write the book. Hopefully, it can help more individuals by giving them a starting point and access to certain knowledge about depression, trauma, anxiety, and addiction. 

“...the way that we talk about soul work, or talk about the soul in general, is through storytelling,” she says. “We are soul, and soul is the essence of who we are. It's our unique way of being and this world, it's our meaning-making machine. It's the times when we feel most at home—when we feel that sense of peace or inspiration or order.”

How do we slow down enough to be able to “grow down”?

Depth psychology focuses on tapping into our unconscious by digging deeper or “growing down” into the essence of who we are.

At some point, we’ve all gone through something similar to what Elisa has experienced: that feeling of realizing that you are no longer happy with what you are doing, even if you used to love it.

“I was sort of on this journey thinking that I had to keep getting there. And if I just got there, I would be happy. If I just got this, I would be happier. And I started hitting some brick walls, as you do when you go on a soul journey,” she shares. “You hear these little calls, these little whispers: Am I happy? Is this right? Do I like this anymore? And normally we just shush them away—they’re too big. We’re not ready. We can’t look at that yet.”

At first, Elisa thought changing agencies was the answer, but when changing the environment wasn’t the answer she was looking for, she decided to look within.

“[I was] forced to go on an inward journey, started reading books, meet people, tap into curiosity, pull the threads of things that I wanted to do,” Elisa says.

There are no shortcuts in this soul work. Some people get there faster than others because they are more willing to listen to the “whispers” of their soul and do something about it.

“I think we can always listen when we get quiet enough,” she adds. During a vacation with her father, she was able to introspect and make a list of things she wanted to do and things that she found interesting. “So I put together this massive list and when I came back, I went through it and I thought, ‘What are tiny little right actions that I could take towards learning a little bit more about the top ten things on my list?’” Elisa shares.

Another way is by writing down things, whether it is our dreams at night, or an exercise Elisa found interesting, which was answering a question and writing her answer in a journal with her non-dominant hand. “Because when you're doing something with your non-dominant hand, you're really focused on the action and you're not in the thinking part,” she adds.

The most important thing is to get out of your head, stop with “I think...” statements, and listen more to your “heart” so that you can get to your “I know...” statements.

Creating personas

One way you can create some metaphorical distance from your rationalizations and your ego is by creating personas. In a way, it is a method to get a different perspective and to view your internal struggles—your disease, addiction, or your “problem”—give it a name, examine it, and understand it without internalizing it so much.

“...depth psychology is about always going inward. It's very non-pathologizing but rather strength affirming,” Elisa says. “We're not trying to look at something and say, ‘Oh, well, that's a disease and you can't do it.’ We're saying, ‘Why is this showing up right now?’

“We're always asking the question about why. We're always trying to heal things by making what is unknown known,” she adds. “The goal is not to eliminate our complexes, but to understand them.

Giving that personification a name separate from your own, but still very much part of your inner world–the imaginal, as coined by Henry Corbin–helps you understand that part of yourself while knowing that you are free to act differently from that persona.

In Elisa’s words, “Essentially this disease [which I named Trixie] or this pathology was a part of me, and that it was only by really, really believing in her and really understanding her and, most importantly, respecting her that I was going to be able to stay sober. Because the minute I thought I was better, or that she didn't exist, or that it wasn't just waiting for me, one drink away, was the minute that I was in trouble.”

We are familiar with archetypes. We know that it is important to give something a name to identify it so we can deal with it. And as entrepreneurs, we know the value of looking at problems from different perspectives and distancing ourselves from situations that are too close to us.

Those same principles also apply when we are diving deeper into ourselves, our “souls,” and really get to the root of our beliefs. We can reshape the warped “reality” and narratives we’ve made. Our behavior will eventually follow suit.

“Soul work is something that we can do on ourselves. It's something that we don't need to be sitting in the therapist's office for. And it's personal,” Elise says.

Follow Dr. Elisa Hallerman

You can learn more about Dr. Elisa Hallerman and her work through her website, drhallerman.com. Follow her on social media in her Facebook and Instagram (@drelisahallerman) accounts. You can also now pre-order her book, Soulbriety, from Amazon and other bookstores nationwide.

DISCLAIMER: The people interviewed are well-trained experts and highly skilled in their areas of practice. They take many safety precautions prior to attempting the activities described. The activities or research discussed in these podcasts should not be attempted without qualified supervision and training with professionals.

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