Martha Hamilton - Episode 14

How Your Emotional Patterns Contribute to Your Fatigue

Today's Podcast

In this episode, Martha talks about How Your Emotional Patterns Contribute to Your Fatigue.


"I’ve been called an uncommon blend of rational and intuitive, strategic and empathic, practical and visionary. Basically, I help people see what is limiting, driving and defining them…opening up a whole new world of possibilities.


Although I didn’t always see it as a “gift,” I’m able to actually feel what other people feel…even when it’s outside of their own awareness. These feelings—body sensations, movements of energy, as well as emotions—are our guidance system, which was designed to help us navigate our life. When we don’t feel them, it can be limiting. When we can’t feel what’s happening with our teams, our organization or ourselves, we’re missing critical information – information that we need.


The content or story in our lives is an indicator of an issue, not the issue itself. It’s our feelings that guide us to the real issue. With my senses tuned to hear those feelings underneath the story, whether it is yours or your team’s, our work begins.

I delight in watching people identify and find freedom from unseen traps of their own making, including me and my own. And it’s a special thrill to uncover maps of these unseen traps within an organization or group of people.


While steeped in more than 25 years experience designing and implementing groundbreaking approaches in public accounting, business strategy, management, and healthcare technology, I came to realize that much of my success stemmed from my awareness of non-cognitive information and the ability to see critical points of leverage that create BIG shifts.

In my coaching/consulting practice, I collaborate with individuals, organizations, and myriad groups to reveal protective layers and patterns that hide needed, relevant capacities. I enjoy the journey with clients as they find their authentic power and resilience, and respond to change in more strategic and effective ways—whether that change is in markets, organizational structures, interpersonal relationships, or other internal/external dynamics.


People often reach out to me when they feel stuck or feel like they are in a repetitive pattern and cannot see clearly what is in their way – or in the way of their team. I use a variety of approaches to help people uncover what is standing between them and where they wish to be. Often, relational issues, whether obvious or not, are at the core of our stuckness.


This is why I’ve pursued many different avenues to learn about self-regulation and relational capacities. I’ve spent many 1,000’s hours studying deep self inquiry, hundreds of hours studying pre and perinatal attachment psychology and I completed the 2 year NARM training with Laurence Heller. I’m currently in the NARM Master Class, an even deeper immersion into the Neuro-Affective Relational Model for healing early developmental trauma in adults.


Our capacity to self-regulate and to have enough space in ourselves to host what is arising both within us and around us is paramount to navigating our adult lives in a relaxed, connected way. Living more often with ease and joy is the result. Have you met someone with that capacity? They are a delight to be around, and often leave us wanting more. I’m here to help get you there."


-Martha Hamilton


Evan H. Hirsch, MD: Hello, and welcome to the Fix Your Fatigue Podcast. Whether you can't get out of bed in the morning, your energy crashes throughout the day, or you're a biohacker looking to optimize your energy, productivity, and focus. This podcast is for you. I am Dr. Evan Hirsch. And I will be your host on your journey to resolving fatigue and optimizing your energy. And we'll be interviewing some of the top leaders in the world on fatigue resolution. Welcome.

Evan H. Hirsch, MD: Hey, everybody, welcome to another interview here with Fix Your Fatigue. So I'm Dr. Evan Hirsch, and with me today is Martha Hamilton. Martha, thanks so much for being with me.

Martha Hamilton: I'm happy to be here.

Evan H. Hirsch, MD: So Martha is our Nervous System Retraining Coach as part of Fix Your Fatigue and so one of the reasons why I wanted to have this conversation with her was to kind of talk about this part of the Fix Your Fatigue program. As you guys know, it's been my mission to find all of the causes of the fatigue because I know that if we leave no stone unturned, we're going to be successful. So it's really important to remember that these causes are physical. They are mental, they are emotional and they are spiritual. Okay. So having Martha as part of our team is really important because she's helping with the emotional aspects with this limbic system that we talk about that has the emotions and the memory that come together, that set up really these negative patterns in our lives that can have a significant effect on our energy and our mood. 

And so today I just kind of want to have a conversation with Martha about how this plays out and folks who are fatigued. So Martha let's start there. So you've been working with our clients for a while now, what have you seen in people who have fatigue? What sort of challenges do they have from what you're seeing in your lens that really plays into them having low energy?

Martha Hamilton: Yes. Thanks Evan. Well, one thing I want to say is I am looking through the lens of what's happening from an emotional perspective, what might be happening from a developmental perspective. I, it is not in my wheelhouse to look at the physical parts, which obviously are yours and the environmental things that you and Mickey take a look at and so I'm really looking through the emotional lens and through the developmental lens on this. And what I see is that often for people that have fatigue, there may be parts of them that when they were younger, it was important to foreclosed, meaning to suppress, to push down, to push away, to cut off parts of them in order to maintain connection within the environment that they were in as a child. And the confusing part about this is that the most recent studies show that it's about we used to think, "Oh, if an environment's abusive, it's bad and if it's not abusive and it's loving, then it's good."
But the most recent studies have been showing it's actually much more subtle and precise than that, because what we're really looking at is how well an environment was able to hold the uniqueness of a being that was born into that environment or adopted into that environment. And then how well that environment responded with that being. And if that being even the child needed to, in some ways, get smaller or for closed parts of themselves in order to maintain connection. And this is the piece that I want to make sure that we include that actually at that time, this is a good move. It's a brilliant move. It's a survival move because we, as human beings are wired for connection as survival. And so in the caregiver environment, connection becomes the primary survival mechanism. But as we get older, some of the ways that we maybe had to adapt as a child actually may be taking up a lot of our energetic bandwidth because they're still operating in the background.

And so what we want to do is take a look at, are there ways that we needed to adapt them that were right then that maybe have hit their expiration date, kind of a thing in the back of the fridge that we find good. It doesn't look so good anymore. It doesn't smell so good, but it's kind of been back there. So we don't notice it. And that happens in our systems too, but what's really amazing is we often find that through a gentle inquiry, people just start saying these things. So what I'm seeing in the clients and your clients in particular, it's really sweet to see that often there, these awarenesses are right below the surface. So a few questions, then all of a sudden, all the information comes pouring out. And I wonder if part of it is because the people are working so hard with you in another areas and trying to work on these things.

Evan H. Hirsch, MD: That's really interesting. So basically you're saying that these survival styles, cause they are like, like we're trying to survive, like we're made to survive. Right? Because I kind of wrapped my head around this and I'm like, how is this advantageous? How is it advantageous to make humans have several babies that then potentially there is they're not able to support each one in its uniqueness just because I was just having this conversation with my mom. My mom felt badly because I was, we were having a conversation with my siblings. She felt like she didn't do her best. And I was like, you did absolutely the best that you could. Like there are three kids running around the house and you guys are both working. 

Like there's no way for you to be everywhere at once, right? So I'm curious what you think about this. And this might be a bit existential, but what is the purpose of having these survival mechanisms that end up being negative mechanisms for us as adults?

Martha Hamilton: Well, I think that the lens of their negativity as adults is looking now at something that's in our system now that's no longer working for us. And for me, one of the important things is to have those eyes and have that awareness, but also go back and see how as a child, this actually might've been the best that the child possibly could have done in the situation. And so to be able to hold both and as children, we only can hold one thing at a time. I love my mom. This isn't working for me. There must be something wrong with me because the child cannot hold. I love my mom and this isn't okay with me. And this thing my mom is doing. Doesn't work for me. A child can't really hold that. Now children can get angry with things that don't work, but it's really a different mechanism than the one I'm pointing to as adults.

We can hold a lot of different perspectives at the same time. So as an adult, I can hold, okay, I can see for me today, this has expired. It's no longer serving me and I can see it still operating in my system as if it does. Oh, how interesting. I wonder what it is that was happening back then. Not so much the story, but more about the mechanism so that we can start including that in our awareness. And as we do that mechanism can start relaxing and then our system can update. So it's not about getting something that's bad now to go away. It's more including the truth of what was true back then. And by doing that, our system then could update to what's needed now, and that might've gotten even more existential. So.

Evan H. Hirsch, MD: No, that's great. And that's really challenging now as an adult kind of looking back and be able to hold those things. Like I love my mom. She did the absolute best that she could. And because of who she was, it made me be this person who potentially was not the best version of myself because I was in relationship. And I didn't want to sever that connection.

Martha Hamilton: Exactly. And I might say that just slightly different because I'm all around the precision is I love my mom. I can see she did the best she could do. And I can see that some of these things that happened did not work for me. And because they didn't work for me, I adjusted myself to make it work for the environment. But the good news is if I adjusted myself back then I also cannot rewire now. And I think that's the most important message we want to have here is that we are wired to rewire. And as a child, we rewired ourselves to make it work in that situation. Just like you were talking about with your mom, we rewired ourselves, the environment didn't do it to us. We did it in order to survive.

Evan H. Hirsch, MD: Right.

Martha Hamilton: But that's not bad. It's good. And now we can also rewire ourselves.

Evan H. Hirsch, MD: That's exciting.

Martha Hamilton: Yes.

Evan H. Hirsch, MD: So how long does it usually take to do that sort of rewiring?

Martha Hamilton: Well, that's a really tricky question because it really depends on how deeply identified we are with the way we needed to rewire ourselves in order to survive back then. So if we were very deeply rewired with that, it can take longer. Like for someone who is deeply committed to saying my parents were amazing and they need to keep that commitment because that was part of what they had to do as a child in order to just survive. They made me sing. And then they tried to meet that demand that they saw of the parents being amazing, but really sometimes not all the time, but sometimes what's behind that is actually, there was a gap that the child was filling in. And so if there's a deep commit and to my parents are amazing. It may take a little while to start to see that as an adult, we actually can hold.

Yes, they're amazing. And they did a lot of amazing things and there were some areas where it didn't work as well for me, as it could have. And I adjusted in order to make that work. And for someone else who might, maybe they've done more introspective work or maybe they've they're not quite so committed to that, then maybe they can say, "Oh, how interesting I could really see both of those." I can, like you were saying, I see my mom worked really hard and I can see that some of the things that happened didn't work for myself or some of my siblings. I see that. And then there's a place where maybe things are a little bit held a little bit more loosely. Does that resonate?

Evan H. Hirsch, MD: It does. Yes, absolutely. And so then it, so then there's, that's where that place of and interestingly, it's really challenging for me to hold both of those. I'm very black and white, so it's really my work to then hold all that in a place of love, a place of gratitude and to love myself as a child, loved my mom and that there's no all bad or all good. There just is if that's, is that a good way of saying it?

Martha Hamilton: Yes. And to not put pressure on ourselves, you named a lot of pieces there at once and to not put pressure on ourselves, have to eat that whole elephant at once. We can do it a bite at a time. And so to really be gentle with ourselves too, during a process of just taking a look because yes, you named a lot of things to hold there at once.

Evan H. Hirsch, MD: Well, I think that the timing question, or how long does it take is a really it's not really a fair question because like you said, everybody's different and it depends on, like you said, how open an individual is .How much work they've done. How fast they shift the energy and then about, I think practices because obviously these things happen to us during the day and we have to switch back into what's a more healthy state from maybe a suffering state that we're in. So what sort of practices do you find to be especially helpful to get people to kind of, I guess, reconnect with a healthier sense of self?

Martha Hamilton: Well, I think one of the things that I often see in some of your clients and some of my other clients is that people put a lot of energy into fighting. What is, and sometimes there's an idea that if I'm with what is as this is what is right now that I'm somehow saying, I want that forever. And that's a bit of a child consciousness perspective because again, the children black and white, it's this way or it's this way. And a practice can be to say yes, in this moment, this is how it is in this moment. This is how it is and see if there's a way to just relax into being with that without it, and to watch if there's an impulse to try to make it different because that impulse also takes a lot of energy. We're constantly trying to make something different and the more we can bring that into our awareness and just go, "Oh, how interesting?"

And I was actually in a silent retreat last week. I normally do those in Europe with a group of about 300 people. And of course we're not flying right now. So I was doing it through the internet at home nine hours difference in time. So it was fascinating. I'm, what I was watching during the silent retreat was thankfully this wasn't a silent retreat where I was feeling a lot of steep, finding anger in my sister. And we're finding a lot of sadness or grief. This was one where actually there was a lot of love, but what was really fascinating was as these really lovely feelings that you would think all of us would want to be around as they would arise, I would watch myself want to leave. I would watch myself actually want to change to be somewhere else. And it was so instructed for me to watch. Wait, this is love, joy, and I'm leaving, and I'm actually trying to get away from this and how interesting, and it's easy to conceive, easier to conceive of that. 

And then to conceive of really feeling exhausted or hurting and saying, yes, this is how it is right now. I mean, I get that. That's a more difficult thing, but I would say one practice is really practicing, noticing if we can be with what is and noticing if we have an impulse to try to make a difference. And if we do just notice that, and that was my practice last week to notice me having the impulse to leave and just notice. And I find noticing to be one of the most profound practices that we can have.

Evan H. Hirsch, MD: So I know that I'm not going to phrase this correctly, but is it okay to do both? So one of the things that I find with our population is that they're constantly thinking about all the things that are wrong and they constantly want things to be different. And so I tell them, I say, you have to have acceptance and gratitude for where you currently are, but then you also have to balance that with taking action and moving forward.

Martha Hamilton: I love that you bring this in.

Evan H. Hirsch, MD: And so that's how I see it, but it sounds like I shouldn't even be saying, taking action and kind of moving towards something else. It should be more about the noticing.

Martha Hamilton: Wow, this is really, it's a really precise question that you're asking. And I love that you're asking this because I think we can, as an adult, again, we can hold multiple things at once. So we're noticing, are we fighting what is? Are we putting energy into fighting that are we noticing ourselves trying to make things differently, which is different than having a clear preference for things to be different. And if I have a clear preference to feel energized and let's acknowledge that and include it. And if there are things that I can do to move me toward that, then that's a beautiful thing, but there's a precise difference between having a preference and moving toward it and pushing against something that is and trying to make it go away. And so I got the sense that's what you were pointing to, but I want to check that with you because I'm not sure.

Evan H. Hirsch, MD: Yes, I think so. Yes. I, yes and it is definitely that challenge of holding these things. And it's interesting. I think there's something that you mentioned too, that though there is a survival style when you're a child that puts you more into black and white, or is it just being a child.

Martha Hamilton: Being a child.

Evan H. Hirsch, MD: Okay. So when I'm stuck in my black and white, that is, is that more child consciousness?

Martha Hamilton: Likely? Yes.

Evan H. Hirsch, MD: So there's, there was something that happened at some point in my life when I was a child where black and white was safe. And I haven't, I've had a hard time evolving past that as I've been an adult. Is that true?

Martha Hamilton: I'm really hesitant to say, yes, that's true to something so generalized and yet I think you're pointing towards something there.

Evan H. Hirsch, MD: Okay, interesting. So then that makes it even harder for people to hold that. So if they have that same experience that I've had, and that maybe they tend towards black and white and they hang on the analytical side of things, then maybe that is really an important practice for them to practice.

Martha Hamilton: Exactly. And I love that you bring in the analytical, because that is one of the adaptive strategies for children. We go up into our head and cut off from our emotions and our body to varying degrees. These are all like a rheostat. They're not a light switch in order to adapt. And so then we have less access to our information coming from our body, maybe less access to our emotions. So you would describe a really strong adaptive strategy there and what to hold it not as something wrong, but is something that was necessary at one time. And then a question of whether it's still serves or whether it's hit its expiration date. Right. And again, that can be a rheostat. It doesn't have to be a light switch. And one of the other things that sometimes happens is people get the idea that they'll have to stop using all the capacities they developed through those strategies. But the cool thing is we keep the capacities. They just become more conscious and less automatic.

Evan H. Hirsch, MD: Very nice. And so this is the kind of work that you do with our clients?

Martha Hamilton: Yes.

Evan H. Hirsch, MD: Yes. How would you better describe what you're doing with folks in your sessions?

Martha Hamilton: I use deep listening. So I'm listening on many levels. I'm listening to the words that are coming out of people. I'm listening to what's happening in their emotional field. The way I interpret it, I can't say that's, what's happening. I'm listening to what's happening in their body. The way I interpreted it, I can't say that's what's happening. And then I use a lot of checking. Like I did that with you before, did I get that right? Am I understanding this? So there's a lot of checking of saying, okay, let's take a look together. And what I'm really doing is walking with people in their own discovery. I don't have a recipe. I don't have something I want to overlay. I don't have an idea of where they should be, but what I will do is inquire. If I notice that someone responds in a way that maybe shut something down, I might ask a gentle question to see if there's something else there.

Or I might ask a question about how, what they notice happening in their system overall. We might say, I don't know what you're talking about. This is what I'm thinking. And so then we can gently start looking at what's happening with their connection to their system because each of these things that we disconnect as a child, we do it in service of maintaining connection with the caregivers and we do it for good reason. So when we go back to connect again, we might feel the emotions that were there when we disconnected at that time. And so to say to someone, feel your body sometimes can be quite an aggressive thing to say because they disconnected from their body for good reasons. So it might be just a very gentle one bite of the elephant at a time discovering that they can reconnect.

And it's not dangerous today. It might've been dangerous back then, but not today. It dangerous even being a fear of loss of attachment relationship something that's not physical. And so it's really a journey with people on their self discovery journey with a lot of reflection and in deep listening and inquiry and then connecting dots and then checking, did I get that right? Is that, did I hear you right when you said, and sometimes what people discover oftentimes is that they say out of their mouth, what needs to be heard and they don't even realize they've said it, that I might say, wow, I just heard you say this. And they're like, really? I didn't know. I said that, and this really starts opening because our systems are also wired to grow and our systems are wired to move toward life. All those strategies when we dealt things down, are we disconnected we're movements toward life. Because at that time, that level of vibrancy wasn't safe as our system discovers that today, actually that level of vibrancy is safe. We can have these connections, then the system really can start to over it, but it's a slow discovery. It's not something that happens just by one or two sessions or just by turning on a light switch that would be asking a lot of people.

Evan H. Hirsch, MD: Right.

Martha Hamilton: Yes.

Evan H. Hirsch, MD: Yes. I tell people, you, if you've been sick for 20 or 30 years, it's going to be really hard to unwind this in a month.

Martha Hamilton: Yes.

Evan H. Hirsch, MD: And it's probably even longer when we're talking about some of these emotional patterns that have been there since childhood because people generally are not sick when their children. It might be, I've been sick for 10 years or 20 years or whatever, and they may be 50 years old, but when they're 50, you might actually be healing patterns from 40 years ago.

Martha Hamilton: Well, and I have a question about this for you. I'm so glad you brought this up because I've been wondering, if we suppress emotions or we suppress fiber and see in order to survive as a child and we find ways to adopt and we go through life, it seems to me that we can carry on with that for quite a while. And then we might hit a line. And all of a sudden we feel the consequences of that, that we haven't felt our whole life. But my hypothesis is that some of this has been there for a very long time. And so even if someone says, but I've only had fatigue for two years, I wonder how you look at that. Like, do you see a cumulative effect where all of a sudden it comes into someone's awareness where maybe before it wasn't quite so much in their awareness, or do you see it a different way?

Evan H. Hirsch, MD: Yes, absolutely. So generally the, when someone gets symptoms it's because they got the straw that broke the camel's back.

Martha Hamilton: Okay.

Evan H. Hirsch, MD: But there were a number of hits. I call them as stressful hits on that are mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, any one of those hits is going to set the stage. Because people will say as soon as this happened, all of a sudden, so that must be the cause. And it's the accumulation.

Martha Hamilton: Yes.

Evan H. Hirsch, MD: Absolutely.

Martha Hamilton: Yes. And I think sometimes people say, but wait a minute. I did find for my first 30 years, how can you say there might be something from my childhood that's still operating here.

Evan H. Hirsch, MD: Right.

Martha Hamilton: And it's like one, I don't know, we could discover together, your system will tell us, we don't need to go back and dig up history. We'll just work with what's your currently and your system will tell us. And it's possible that it's got this cumulative effect. So yes. Thank you.

Evan H. Hirsch, MD: And that's one of the things that I really want to touch on as well, is the, is not needing to go back into the past. I know that the in arm and whatever other trainings that you've had in inform you, so that you are trauma informed, but that doesn't mean that you have to go back into the past and relive the trauma or talk about the trauma. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Martha Hamilton: Yes. So a lot of the most recent research is really showing that it's not what happened. It's how we adapted to what happened. And those adaptations ones are still online. And in a way, that's the same thing you're talking about with the fatigue, which of these adaptations are still online that are pulling bandwidth or pulling resources that are unconscious. And so we don't understand how much energy is going into maintaining suppressing anger, for instance, or maintaining suppressing something. And so what we can do is looking at what's happening in life right now, and life will show us what it's ready to unveil. 

And it's so interesting. Our client will say, well, I'm looking at this and I want to talk about this. And then all of a sudden they'll say, "Oh my gosh, I'm having this memory from when I was three. How strange." It will be like, no, that's not strange at all. That's actually your system connecting dots. And so we allow the system to heal itself because our systems know what to do when they have proper support. And I know, I understand that a lot of what you're doing physically is giving people the proper support so their systems can heal themselves and emotionally that's what NARM and some of these other modalities that I'd look at the primarily NARM is really doing is supporting people so that their systems can heal themselves.

Evan H. Hirsch, MD: And what does NARM stand for?

Martha Hamilton: The NeuroAffective Relational Model for healing early developmental trauma in adults.

Evan H. Hirsch, MD: Nice. And it sounds like you just kind of gave us the definition or how you work with it. Is there anything else that you would add to that?

Martha Hamilton: Well, I, again, I would say what I said before with this is a journey that I accompanied someone on. I cannot fix them. I cannot wave a magic wand. I have no pixie dust, but what I do have is a lot of awareness that I can bring in and support someone with on their journey.

Evan H. Hirsch, MD: Excellent. Yes. And that's why I think this is such an important part of this. Especially if we don't have to go back and that we can actually see what we have right here and that we can make transformation that can really lighten the load in so many ways, because that is the way that I see it from a physiologic standpoint is that's chronic stress. Anybody who's got chronic stress from an emotional, a mental, emotional standpoint is going to have suppressed hormones, and they're going to have mitochondrial dysfunction and the body is going to try its best to adapt throughout time because that's what humans do until it can no longer do so. And it gets a number of these other hits and then all of a sudden somebody gets fatigued.

Martha Hamilton: Yes. So delighted to be here on this journey with you in what you're bringing to the world and this small slice of the pie that I bring. I'm so happy to bring.

Evan H. Hirsch, MD: Excellent. Well, it's such a gift to have you working with us and being on this path together. So I think I have just one more question for you and it's really just about a, really the best takeaway from this. And it sounds like to me, like it's really about noticing, would you agree with that?

Martha Hamilton: I would agree.

Evan H. Hirsch, MD: Okay. And is there a particular practice on noticing that people can do from home as a good supplement to the work that they're doing with you?

Martha Hamilton: Yes. I mean, noticing also has many layers. I noticed that I'm noticing, I noticed that I noticed and I'm shaming myself. I noticed that I'm shaming. "Oh, How interesting." I noticed that I'm trying to get away from something so we can actually use the noticing. I noticed that I'm really irritated with noticing. "Very Good." And so it's really just being with the noticing. I think it's one of the most underrated, powerful tools that we have.

Evan H. Hirsch, MD: Excellent. Well, thank you so much for being with me today, Martha.

Martha Hamilton: Thanks for having me.

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