Blossom Your Awesome

Blossom Your Awesome Podcast Setting Boundaries With Dr. Leslie Dobson

November 27, 2023 Sue Dhillon Season 1 Episode 212
Blossom Your Awesome Podcast Setting Boundaries With Dr. Leslie Dobson
Blossom Your Awesome
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Blossom Your Awesome
Blossom Your Awesome Podcast Setting Boundaries With Dr. Leslie Dobson
Nov 27, 2023 Season 1 Episode 212
Sue Dhillon

Blossom Your Awesome Podcast Setting Boundaries With Dr. Leslie Dobson

Dr. Leslie Dobson is a clinical and forensic psychologist who has worked with some of the most dangerous criminals including murder and cannibalism.

She has learned how to set strong interpersonal boundaries to protect herself from toxic people and shares those insights with us in this episode.

She also assesses the truthfulness of claims in civil litigation, and works with individuals who have endured severe trauma.

To learn more about her check her out here.

To see more of my work check me out at my website

Where I write and cover mindfulness and other things to help you Blossom Your Awesome.

Or checkout my other site where I right about arts and culture, wellness, essays and op-eds.

Or follow me on instagram where I post fairly regularly and ask an inquisitive question or two weekly in hopes of getting you thinking about your life and going deeper with it.

My Instagram - i_go_by_skd

To support my work - my Patreon

To see more of who I'm talking to on the Podcast, to advertise your brand on the Blossom Your Awesome Podcast or just get in touch click here.  

Show Notes Transcript

Blossom Your Awesome Podcast Setting Boundaries With Dr. Leslie Dobson

Dr. Leslie Dobson is a clinical and forensic psychologist who has worked with some of the most dangerous criminals including murder and cannibalism.

She has learned how to set strong interpersonal boundaries to protect herself from toxic people and shares those insights with us in this episode.

She also assesses the truthfulness of claims in civil litigation, and works with individuals who have endured severe trauma.

To learn more about her check her out here.

To see more of my work check me out at my website

Where I write and cover mindfulness and other things to help you Blossom Your Awesome.

Or checkout my other site where I right about arts and culture, wellness, essays and op-eds.

Or follow me on instagram where I post fairly regularly and ask an inquisitive question or two weekly in hopes of getting you thinking about your life and going deeper with it.

My Instagram - i_go_by_skd

To support my work - my Patreon

To see more of who I'm talking to on the Podcast, to advertise your brand on the Blossom Your Awesome Podcast or just get in touch click here.  

Sue (00:00.854)
Hi there, today on the show we have got Dr. Leslie Dobson here with us. I am so honored and delighted to have you here. Welcome to the show.

Dr. Leslie Dobson (00:09.781)
Thank you for having me.

Sue (00:11.958)
Oh, excited to have you here and get into the work you do. I think this is so interesting. I want to start with, I know you do the, you know, you're a clinical psychologist, but the forensic psychologist, give us the backstory there. Like how, why did you get into that particular field?

Dr. Leslie Dobson (00:33.341)
You know, my cheesiest answer is because everyone told me I couldn't do it. I was a young, naive girl in Orange County, California, and I was fascinated by severe mental illness and crime and how it all worked together. And I was fascinated by California's judicial system, which is so broken. And I grew up in such a bubble in Orange County that

I had this fascination with it on television and with celebrity cases, and I wanted to actually see what it was like. So I started really hounding a psychologist at the Los Angeles County Jail when I was in my doctorate, and I said, you need to have a rotation for psychology students to come in. And he said, no, there's too much liability. We're not going to do that.

And eventually he said, okay, so we started our first, what we call a practicum or a clinical, unpaid clinical rotation there. And I was mesmerized by the severity of mental illness, unmedicated and the intensity of the violence that was occurring. And right away my brain, my wheels started turning of, how can I help these people?

it looks so painful, but then others are so psychopathic and dangerous. How do we differentiate? They're all together. And the sheriffs and the guards weren't educated on mental illness. They didn't know what was happening. And so I just walked into this massive chaos. And I found it so exhilarating that I made that the focus of my career.

Sue (02:20.99)
Wow. Okay. That's really cool. And so you know what I think is so interesting? Tell me this. So you kind of went in because you have this fascination, but, and you wanted to kind of get out on the inside with people and this kind of dark psychology and what triggers people. But I would imagine now with all of the years under your belt, you would see how having a rotation, having different psychologists coming in.

to work with people would be so beneficial because they might not be getting access to the right person that's gonna give them the best response or treatment, right?

Dr. Leslie Dobson (03:02.001)
Definitely. I can speak to other countries a little bit, but in America, you're going to get a better doctor if you pay cash. Health insurance really low balls doctors. The doctors who are willing to go in and work in prison settings are not the ones who are making millions of dollars a year because they're extremely talented.

And that may be very biased. So you are cycling through trainees and you are cycling through people who aren't really aspiring to be the best therapists in the world in these government settings, in these prisons. So the inmates are getting a taste of kind of mediocre therapy. And I think it's wonderful that they get to meet all of these different people and all these different styles. But I wish they had better.

I wish they had better treatment in there. What happens is the therapists kind of do their time and then they go out into the real world and use those experiences for cash pay clients to make more money. So to your point, yeah, they meet a lot of different people, these inmates, and they're so lucky to be given all of these services, but they're still in my mind, subpar services.

Sue (04:20.111)
Wow, that's so interesting. And now, you mentioned that you said something a moment ago about accessing, God, I'm losing my train of thought here as I'm asking you this question. So I'm going to get back to that in a moment. But was there a common theme there? Is it always

related to some form of trauma that goes unaddressed.

Dr. Leslie Dobson (04:53.474)
Yeah, in, in forensic psychology, we have a lot of, of course, legal stuff, right? But in overall trauma.

People go crazy because of trauma, yes. In forensic psychology, I think there's a lot of underlying trauma, but there's a large portion too of individuals who are simply psychopathic. They were raised in environments where they had to learn to survive by doing crimes. And some really enjoy hurting other people. So there's that divide of who is genuinely struggling with mental illness because it's

predisposed in their system and trauma, exacerbated it and brought it forward. And who is a psychopath? Who never had a chance to ever be kind, who never had a chance to ever feel empathy. We can't really treat them. All we can do is guide them by consequences and prison walls. The ones I really focused on were the individuals who had symptoms because of trauma, who were raised in really horrible environments, who were severely abused,

mothers and grandmothers with schizophrenia, and they just needed to feel the containment of a relationship that was safe and warm and linear. And I started leading group therapy for those individuals who I picked out that were not psychopathic, that were maybe, I mean, a lot were there for peeing in public because they were homeless and struggling with schizophrenia.

and they needed to understand medication and how they could actually use resources to get their life back together. And so that's where I really honed in at the beginning of my career. And I still, in civil litigation, I still work with trauma today because it's so vast with how it impacts people.

Sue (06:47.894)
Wow, okay. So I remember what I was gonna ask you and now I have other questions because of what you said. This is all so fascinating to me. So you know, this legal component, so it sounds like a lot of times people have these conditions, but they're which should be addressed rather than a sentence of some sort, right? Is kind of what you're getting at.

Dr. Leslie Dobson (07:13.865)
Yes, I, you know, and that's California, that's America, but I can't tell you how many psychiatrists have said, we medicate the individual, but we're really medicating the environment. And it's sad. These facilities are chaotic and understaffed, and we don't always have time to have a clear view of what an individual needs, what they're struggling with, and then we don't have the ability or the funding to give them what they need.

We have people locked up in prisons, and then they're released back to the communities, gang-ridden communities where they had all of their crimes occur. The gangs are going to suck them right back in because they don't have any money. They can't survive. They've got to run something to even get food. And then they're back where they started. And it's such a disservice to an individual who had hope at one point to move out of the mental illness.

Sue (08:12.61)
Wow, this is so interesting. And you know, I have to just commend you for your empathy because this is not a conversation that's being had because so often like criminals are just get brushed under the rug. They're just the bad guys who no one should consider their pain or trauma or really going deep to say, wait, why did this person do this in the first place?

Dr. Leslie Dobson (08:36.105)
Yes. And those were the conversations I loved to have, was, you know, to build a safe place with them and rapport. And granted, I got manipulated left and right. Bad things happened because I was so gullible at the beginning. But with, you know, I had one individual who told me he didn't want to get out of prison because he found his safe place in those moments talking to me. That me and he talking in prison in a pod full of people.

was safer than him envisioning his home. And that to me was so impactful.

Sue (09:15.618)
Wow. Now, you know, touching on psychopaths, help us understand this. So there, because so often we just associate behavior with trauma, but can you give us like the clinical definition? And are you saying people who are psychopaths are, can't be treated and don't necessarily have trauma that goes along with their actions?

Dr. Leslie Dobson (09:46.925)
Sure. So in psychology, we use a test and there's a lot of research behind what we call a psychopath. We don't really use the word sociopath anymore. So the psychopath is a personality and it's defined by behavioral impulsivity, a lack of remorse, an inability to be stimulated unless something's really, really bad, wanting to hurt people.

an inability to have sustained relationships, shallow affect, cunning, manipulative, those kind of things we've seen in movies. And there are many psychopathic individuals who showed these traits at five years old, and they've been the same throughout their entire lives. And in forensic psychology, they become less dangerous when they age out. A lot just get

old and too tired to do the tricks and the games that they used to do. So trauma doesn't really play into a psychopathic personality, although you can have a traumatized person in a bad environment who's learned how to act a bit like a psychopath to get by. And

Those are workable people where we can say, okay, if you want to be in this community rather than in prison and you want to actually live your life in a meaningful way, this is how you've got to do it.

Sue (11:15.362)
Wow, that is so interesting because again, these are not conversations we're having and the average person wouldn't know how to decipher one from the other, right? You could think maybe potentially you've got a family member or a friend, someone who's done things and you could attribute that to, oh, well they had an abusive sibling or whatever and that's why they do that, but really it's a deeper thing.

we really can't make excuses for. It's just, so how, you know, for the average person, how do we know or how do we identify some of these behaviors that are potentially threatening or not safe for us?

Dr. Leslie Dobson (12:04.329)
I think it starts with listening to your gut and your intuition. Um, there's a great book called the gift of fear. I know most people have read it. Um, and then there's a gift of fear for parents too. So you can apply it to your children, but it talks a lot about. Trusting your gut and your intuition. And when somebody gives you the heebie-jeebies, you know, you might not have the words or the memories to say, okay, that person's creeping me out.

and I understand that because I saw this in a movie or because I was harmed by someone like that in the past, your brain might not catch up. So if you just feel the heebie-jeebies, you need to say to yourself, okay, I'm feeling that physiological reaction because there's something in my body that is reminding me that there's a characteristic about this person that's dangerous, so get away. And I think that's the biggest thing we don't listen to, right? We...

We take our kids to the park and we sit next to someone and we feel odd and they seem weird, but we don't move. And so I think starting to listen to your gut and then also looking at those red flags, right? If somebody is just too charismatic, if they're too interested in us, if we have too many similarities right away, or if they're pressuring the relationship to move faster than your comfort level, they may be psychopathic.

they may be trying to control the relationship in order to be a parasite, to take your emotions, to take your finances, to take any part of you.

Sue (13:43.414)
That is such great insights there and such great guidance, because so often, again, we want to, you know, or especially, I think, younger people or younger gals might meet somebody and, oh, my God, he likes me so much, and he's so into me and this and that. But really, there's like ulterior motives there, potentially.

Dr. Leslie Dobson (14:06.005)
And so we want to look at those protective factors. We call them protective factors in psychology. What makes somebody a healthy, grounded person? Well, have they had relationships in the past that have lasted longer than two years? Do they have longstanding friendships? Are their finances stable? Do they take risks? Are the risks obscene? Are they skydiving every month? Because that's a little alarming, right? So

We pay attention to our social norms, and if somebody is really going outside of it, it may be sexy, we may be a little infatuated by it, but if they're that much of an outlier, there may be something wrong with them. And it may be unhealthy for us to engage in that over a long time.

Sue (14:53.55)
Mm-hmm. And now talk to us about narcissists, because I find that this is so prevalent and gets just swept under the rug. People don't really know a narcissist from a non-narcissist.

Dr. Leslie Dobson (15:08.357)
Yeah, so I like to say a narcissist is kind of part way to a psychopath, but not fully. You know, I think narcissistic people, truly narcissistic people who would meet criteria, they gaslight you a lot. So you have a relationship with somebody who is always making you question who you are. They start with

really love bombing you, giving you their all. And then as they retreat a little bit to love themselves, you question where you stand in the relationship. They make you feel dumb for questioning that. You pull away, they often criticize you, they break you down a little bit, and that's to fulfill them. And then you still question yourself and then they love bomb you more and they fill you back up and pull you back in. And that push and pull

is this narcissistic dynamic where narcissists can either hate themselves or they can love themselves but there's no in between and they're going to take you on that journey with them. They're going to hate you or they're going to love you too.

Sue (16:25.982)
And is there a component of like multiple personality disorder? Because I personally have seen on more than one occasion where somebody, you know, they're one way with somebody, but they may have these long term friendships and those people have no idea about this person's other side, right? And they've spent like a lot of time with these people, but they don't know this other part of this person. So is that?

part of the equation there.

Dr. Leslie Dobson (16:59.517)
I wouldn't call it multiple personalities, but I would say that we attach to people differently. So, a narcissist is going to attach to a person where they can manipulate the relationship easily and they can hide their characteristics and they can prevent themselves from being wounded by the person. So, they're going to have one very special person in their life that they can really hurt.

and also that person is a safe place for them. But they will put on a facade around others. And, you know, in tightly knit communities or tight families, you may see it more, but, you know, there may be a narcissistic domestic violence situation down your street, but if you're four houses away, you won't see it because they're very into impression management and they're very careful at how the abuse plays out and how they're perceived.

Sue (17:58.882)
This is a really interesting term, impression management. I feel like a lot of people, or we all do that on some level, don't we? Or what is that?

Dr. Leslie Dobson (18:09.225)
Oh, 100%. So we have, you know, in our psychology testing, we have negative impression management or positive. You know, do you want to be seen as sicker than you are? Sure, if you're suing someone. Do you want to be seen as healthier than you are? Sure, if you want a promotion or you want to start dating someone. And so we put on a facade of our personality. But the question is, what does it look like over time and how do we maintain that? And does it match up with all these other aspects in our life?

We all know looking at everyone around us, when those pockets of fakeness pop up, and do the people around us say, I see it, I'm aware, I'm acknowledging it, it's a red flag, or do we ignore it? So in psychology, you know, we're trained so much to find those pockets and dig into them and figure out why someone needs to positively impress upon others or negatively, right? And in lawsuits, if it's negative,

I wanna know how sick are you? How traumatized are you from the event that occurred? Are you really being truthful? And I can get at that through a lot of psychological tests and interviews, but we can also get at that just by knowing someone over time in real life.

Sue (19:27.682)
Mm-hmm. And now, talk to us about boundaries, because I know this is one of the things people struggle with, right? Especially with a narcissist, it's so hard laying down those boundaries. But even with other people who are not narcissists, what is a powerful way to set healthy boundaries?

Dr. Leslie Dobson (19:48.865)
So I hopefully by the end of the year, I'll have this book done that I'm writing, which I'm struggling to finish. It's called The Friend Cleanse and it's so much about boundaries because what I noticed during COVID was that my clients actually really enjoyed COVID. They enjoyed having someone else set boundaries for them. So they didn't have to interact with people they didn't like. They didn't have to interact with people who sucked to their energies, who were toxic.

they got to really be with themselves. And as COVID ended and they were shot back out into socializing, they didn't give themselves permission of boundaries. They just started being around people they don't like again. And so I started writing this book of, you know, we need to talk about who we're around. Everybody needs to be defined. Like is this person gonna be a texting friend where I don't really see her in person?

Is this person someone who's gonna show up once a month, and if she shows up less, I won't be disappointed? So once we start to define who these people are around us, we can decide how we show up in the relationships. And that's the boundary. The boundary is us saying, okay, I know what you're about. This is what I'm about, and this is how I can be around you without you draining me.

Sue (21:09.962)
Wow, this is so insightful. So, but you know, for someone who struggles to convey that, because there's people who just don't know how to tell people like, look, this is too much, or this is what works for me, right? Or is there some insight around that?

Dr. Leslie Dobson (21:30.557)
You know, I struggle with that all the time. Like I had a massage the other day and it was way too hard, but I didn't say anything the whole hour. And afterwards I thought, geez, why? So now I feel like bruised, but that happens in our everyday life, right? So what I like to do is we take baby steps. So we may not have the ability to say, hey, well, you're too much for me, but we may say, okay.

I'm gonna go ahead and engage in this interaction with the timeline. We're gonna set it up in a place where we can't stay too long, or I'm gonna bring a buffer, or I'm gonna bring a friend. And I'm gonna think about what I'm gonna talk about before we meet. And I'm gonna set my boundary around the conversation. I'm gonna set my boundary around what I'm willing to listen to as well. Is it a friend who just vents diarrhea in your ear the whole time? Okay, then you're gonna give her 10 minutes and you're gonna say you have a hard stop and you've gotta be somewhere.

even if you're lying. But the boundaries don't have to be this verbal communication. They can be your tools leading up to it.

Sue (22:36.99)
Oh my goodness. I love that. That is so awesome. And I think that would just help so many people for those, especially who can't just say, hey, this is my boundary, right? So there's ways around that. I think that's so cool. Now tell us what about, you know, if you have somebody in your life who's stuck and struggling or you think they need help, how do we approach that or what do you

Dr. Leslie Dobson (23:08.021)
I like to talk to people about the difference between burnout and actual mental health symptoms and diagnoses. So, you know, it's on a continuum. We all start to feel shitty at some point, but is the shittiness lasting too long? Is it becoming something that occurs more days out of the week than not? Because then we actually really need to seek professional help. So

Talking to people about, okay, how long have you been feeling bad? How long have you been feeling sad or anxious or disinterested or unhappy? Is it growing? Is it situational? Is it something that's gonna change over time? And being aware of how we're feeling, how long it's been around and also how we wanna be different, right? Are we not changing because...

we're too scared or we can't get there or we need help? What is going into us being in this stuck point that isn't our best self or our best life? And do we need to take a little bit of a risk? Do we need to push our comfort zone in order to be happy and achieve what we know we want, but there are too many barriers in our mental space preventing us from getting there?

Sue (24:34.67)
Wow, that's beautiful. And now, what about, you know, is there something we can do at home? Is there like an activity or an exercise that's therapeutic for healing old wounds if we don't want to necessarily go to therapy or a psychologist?

Dr. Leslie Dobson (24:56.837)
I love journaling. I love having multiple journals. So I love having, I mean, shadow work is this big thing on TikTok right now. It's cool to research, but you can buy a shadow work journal that kind of guides you to reparent your child self. And I think it's really cool to write letters to the kid you were and the kid that struggled and show up for that kid.

as who you are now, as the stronger, more confident adults. So journaling in that sense is amazing. I love a good worry journal where you just use it to write down everything you're worried about, all your anxious thoughts. And before you go to bed, you leave it outside of your bedroom and you know your worries can just sit in that journal until the morning. It helps with sleep a lot. And I also love just keeping a small journal or a paper

by your bed so that if you have something like an anxious thought or a dream, you can write down one word or a symbol or something that you'll remember in the morning and you can look more into. But I love journaling for our mental health because it takes it out of our mind, onto paper, frees up this real estate that we need to navigate our life. And then we can also see it more clearly on paper.

and manage it when we want to, when we have the energy to do it.

Sue (26:28.438)
Oh, I love that. That is really powerful guidance. Now tell us, Dr. Dobson, what do you is, is there a myth around mental health and mental wellness that something we need to like demystify or something that just like drives you crazy?

Dr. Leslie Dobson (26:50.313)
I mean, there's so many. I think a big one is people care a lot less about you than you think they do. And you know, we are so impacted by other people judging us. But after seeing thousands and thousands of people in my office on this couch, they do not care about other people. They are 95% with themselves and their worries and like 5% in the world.

And it's important to know that you're not that important when it comes to the negative stuff. And if somebody is showing up for you in a positive way, that is a keeper. That is a person that you should keep in your life. Because most people are really stuck in all of their own stuff and really struggle to show up for other people.

Sue (27:44.422)
I love that guidance. That is so great. And you know, and so often I hear people, this is like one of the biggest anxieties, you know, or things that people talk about, like, Oh, my God, I said this, and I shouldn't have said this. And, you know, he was looking at me weird or whatever, just ruminating about something that happened last week, when I'm like, you know, he's probably like over it or not thinking about it, you know. So now tell us, so you're working on a book,

What else is like on the table for you? What else do you have going on? Tell when is the book going to be out?

Dr. Leslie Dobson (28:21.833)
My goal is that the book is out at the end of the year, but I may miss the New Year's resolution boost because the book is gonna be interactive on my website where you can actually have this interactive sphere around you and you can move your friends around and you can see if they're draining your energy or boosting up your energy. And so the, yeah, so the book will be like a bit of a workbook, like, come on, let's put all your friends in here and let's define them and figure out what your life looks like.

Sue (28:41.788)
Oh, wow.

Dr. Leslie Dobson (28:51.921)
And then let's get online and really draw it out. And you can update it every day. You can update it every quarter or every time there's a trauma in life. But the key is that you are in charge of your life. And when life starts to feel like it's controlling you, it's time to step back and reassess. And so that's so much of what the book's about. And what I hope is.

later over the next year to start having female empowerment retreats. What I would just absolutely love is to get awesome women together and we just build each other up and teach the skills to stay in that positive space and empower each other.

Sue (29:36.846)
That is beautiful. I love that. And so a couple of things first and foremost, I just think you've been so awesome and you've had so many amazing insights and I just thank you so much for your time today.

Dr. Leslie Dobson (29:52.693)
Of course, thank you.

Sue (29:55.238)
You were awesome. And now in closing, I have to ask you if there were just one message, your hope for everybody, what is that closing message you wanna leave us with?

Dr. Leslie Dobson (30:12.169)
I think the biggest message is that life doesn't have to feel as bad as it does. And if you're feeling stuck, you just haven't found the resources yet, and it's okay to robotically start doing things. Your emotions and your mind will catch up later, and you will be out of the hole.

Sue (30:34.434)
That is such a beautiful closing message. I just love that. You've been so wonderful. Thank you so much.