If you’re at a place where you’re feeling a little stuck or maybe you’ve hit a plateau or maybe you’re dealing with crisis, if you’ve been in a place in time where you’ve ever considered or contemplated suicide, whether you’re an athlete or a high performer dealing in high-stress environments, you are not alone. On average, there are 123 suicides per day. Sande Roberts has worked in the crisis and behavioral health field for over twenty-five years. She is a certified master trainer in suicide prevention and intervention by the State of California Department of Mental Health. As an expert in all facets of effective communication, she coaches, consults, and mentors individuals, businesses and governments to function better together with their employees, customers, and families. Sande uses unconventional approaches to achieve amazing results in order to help her clients understand how they and others show up in their personal and professional behavior and communication.
We all deal with crisis, don’t we? Our guest expert is Sande Roberts.
Sande, welcome to the show. How are you?
Thank you. I am delighted to be here.
It’s great to have you with us. You’ve got this wealth of experience. You work with college athletes, high achievers, and veterans to broad their range of wisdom and expertise. There seems to always be a story, Sande, of why people do what they do. Since one of the themes of our conversation is around human behavior, why are you doing what you do now?
You take me back to when this first pulled me into this field and that was about 30 years ago. I had a young high school student who was a daughter of a friend of mine asked me to please sit down and meet her for coffee because she and her friends were going into their senior year and there was something they wanted. That was to be able to start a peer counseling program in their high school. They wanted to be able to help each other. They had heard about these programs and they had decided that I was the one who could help them do it even though at that time I was not affiliated with the school. Three hours later and a lot of coffee, I walked out of there committed to helping this girl and her friends start these programs. We did. During the timeframe that I was together with her for her senior year and for others who came into the program, I was hit like a brick wall about teen suicide, about crises that the students face, about family life, about everything. That was my real beginning into the crisis field.
In many ways, you were called to do this. It’s so interesting because you took me back to a time when I was in college. In college, she confided in me that she was considering committing suicide because she had been raped. Here I was, this seventeen-year-old kid and this was a girl that I really adored and really thought a lot of and now she’s in my arm saying she’s thinking about committing suicide. I had no idea what to do except I started quoting some things that I remember this quote that I had gotten. It’s from a Bible verse, which is, “What’s the use of worry, what good does it do, does it add a single day to your life? Of course, not. If it can’t do such things as that, why worry over bigger things.”
At that time, it was one of the only tools I had in my toolbox to be able to share with her and she told me years later that that saved her life. Life is so precious and you never know where it’s going to turn up. Fast forward, what are you most excited about that you’re pursuing are doing? You’ve got a big mission with the Vets and Operation Shockwave. Talk about what you’re most excited in your efforts right now.
I have exactly parallel lives in working with the veterans and with Operation Shockwave. I am so excited. I’m sure there’s program development for them and so I come up with all this program ideas and then we implement it. It’s like, “That really worked.” I teach a couple classes at Phoenix College to keep my hand in it. I fell into it by accident. I was asked to teach a couple classes for their dual enrollment high school. They have kids that are getting college classes and regular high school classes at the same time from the professors from the college campus and then they’re across the street. Tying into the military, one of the young girls that was in my high school class this past semester, her great grandfather was a Navajo Code Talker.
He has since passed, but his father, her grandfather and her dad came to my class and spoke to us about the whole Navajo code talking. What they had been through as a family, what it meant to them. They brought some memorabilia with them and they agreed that they had such a great time doing it that they’re going to come help us launch a Veterans History Project that we’ve been wanting to do. We’re starting this and there will be four Fridays in a row. They will come and they will spend the first two hours just talking about the whole history of Navajo code talking and their family. Then the other three weeks after that, I’ll take everyone through compiling their story and how it works. This is for veterans and people in the community who would like to come are also invited. It’s free and it’s going to be at the East Valley Veterans Center.
Let’s dive into the human mind. One of my first explorations at this was my dad introduced me to a book by an author named James Loehr who’s gotten pretty well-known for some of his other books. This book my dad had gotten me it’s called Mentally Tough: The Principles of Winning at Sports Applied to Winning in Business. With your background in sports psychology, along with what you do with mental health, dealing with crisis, human behavior, you could probably relate to this. What is the biggest challenge that you see? We’ve got things coming at us 100 miles an hour. It’s almost even if we’re not a vet or not been suffering from concussion because we’d been hit too many times in football or sports, that people are walking around with PTSD just in everyday life now more than ever because of all the information overload or the internet and technology, etc. Speak about your observation or maybe you have some science and facts to back that up too.
We could probably dig up all kinds of science and facts but here’s what I’ve noticed, and this goes back to the two things that are at the top of the cause and what’s going on all the way across the board, athletes, veterans, etc. That’s moral injury and authoritarian wound. Moral injury is when we have to do something. We don’t have a choice and it goes against who we are and what we feel. Being a soldier out in the field and taking a life is definitely not something that we signed up to do. Let me talk about experience that I had when I was working with the Scottsdale Community College Football Team as their Sports Psychologists. I had a wonderful young man, he was on the front line. He would play. He was excellent. He said to me that every time he lines up, knocks off the other guys, he does it because that’s what goes on automatic pilot, but when he looks around and he sees the carnage that he’s created, he can’t believe that he literally was capable of doing that. It was a significant conflict for him emotionally and it was a conflict about going into sports.
Often, the students will go into sports trying to get a scholarship. They’ll go into sports because they love sports and they don’t think about the consequences of an injury. Especially in something like football where it’s a very aggressive sport. It was my first inclination of what the meaning behind moral injury for doing something that we didn’t want to do, but we were required to do it for the place that we were in. That is a very pervasive and damaging place for veterans when they’re out on the battlefield and they have to do something. It’s a significant thing and we find it in our life. That leads us into that authoritarian piece because we have someone telling us what to do that we have to obey their orders. If their orders are not in somebody’s best interests and we have to obey them, that is also a moral injury and authoritarian one at the same time.
Have you ever found yourself pulled, feeling conflict because on one end you were told or thought you should go this route? Yet deep inside you were like, “I’m not sure if this is the best interest for me or the other parties involved.” We’re going to talk about moral injury, what you can do to transform that crisis and experience to one of your biggest next breakthroughs. You’ve been in that place where you felt like some conflict of on one end there is the cost of if you don’t do it from maybe a work perspective or being an athlete or what have you, on the other end, there’s a cost to the other party in your mind. You could consider it some type of strategic carnage, knowing that it’s not necessarily going to raise the level of the others involved, so to speak. Have you ever dealt with that? That’s part of what crisis really is. Sande, if you can think of that particular athlete that you talked about, what advice would you give him if he was sitting with you right now to ultimately break through this place of being stuck or conflicted to then be able to go out and perform and continue to be potentially a high achiever?
What ends up happening is we need to make some decisions about what’s our greater goal. If you look at veterans and that they have a greater goal for peace in our country and for saving lives, for being able to save. My next book is called Military, Police, Fire & Football – Teaming Up to Defeat Suicide. There are so many similarities in that. They have injuries. The crowd cheers them on and in a sense they’re in a social media fishbowl. There are so many complex things that are going on when we’re looking at death. They all have uniforms, they all have someone telling them what to do and that the orders are coming down to them from someone else and they have to carry them out or not. There’s danger everywhere whether it’s physical injury or an emotional injury. There’s something going on. They have to decide, is what they’re able to do with what they’re accomplishing worth it? For a soldier, they’re trying to keep us alive and safe back here. They have to do some things that are really terrible.
We have to be able to give them services when they come back that helps them realign their body and realign their emotional and mental capacity to deal with these things and to feel good about their effort. Not necessarily what they had to do, but their efforts to protect our country and their families. When we get into some fire, everybody is, “The firefighter, they’re the hero.” The irony is they suffer really the same amount of trauma and drama that a police officer would. They’re the ones who are having to pull the bodies out of a car accident. They’re the ones who are having to decide how many people can they save and who’s most likely for them, for the greater good of the size of the group. They’re the ones running into dangerous chemical burn situations where they may or may not come out of it.
We have football and we owe football looking at what it’s doing to our brains. We owe football for discovering the brain injuries and what jostling has done. If we had lost some football players and discovered the CTE situation, then we would be able to be looking at this for other avenues. The police, the instantaneous decision of, “What do I do?” especially when somebody pulls a toy gun. Have you ever walked down the aisle at Target and looked at the toy guns? I can’t tell them apart with the real ones. Somebody pulls that on you and you’re trained to save the larger amounts of people you need to respond. They all have some type of an injury that comes from a thought process of doing what they’re supposed to be doing.
One thing that pops into my head is it’s not only being conditioned and taught but isn’t there a link to the reptilian mind syndrome that we deal with. I remember as a kid, my dad even will take guns out of the picture. I remember my dad said, “If you’re ever in a potential altercation or an uncomfortable place, what you really want to do, if you think you’re going to get hit then strike first. Don’t wait to take the first shot. If you feel like you’re going to have somebody hit you, then go make sure you’re protected by essentially being in a good position to either defend yourself and/or make sure to take the first blow. There are lots of parents who have taught their kids this way. Is it any wonder that if a toy gun gets pulled out, the response is to protect yourself, which essentially a protective mechanism, but it even goes deeper than conditioning in my opinion? It’s even the reptilian fight-or-flight idea which is unconscious in us. With gun control, a very controversial topic now. This does tie in with even the football example, firefighter, etc. Talk about the relevance of the reptilian mind related to fight-and-flight as it ties into this.
That ties into one of the things that we use to deal with it and that which is tapping. An Emotional Freedom Technique, which is tapping long literal acupuncture points that stops the flow and actually, it re-increases the ability to fully process and it stops the fight or flight. It interferes with that panic and gets the blood and everything else flowing back to the brain because that fight or flight is built in just as you say. It’s completely built into us and then it’s reprogrammed by people that your safety comes first and that blocks all rational thinking. It blocks everything else. It stops from working.
A lot of places are working with different treatment modalities that help let that flow. EMDR, which is an Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, Emotional Freedom Technique, which is tapping on acupuncture points. These are therapy models, some of which you can use yourself; the tapping you can use yourself. I’ve used it in the midst of crisis. I’ve used the tapping in the midst of a literal significant suicide intervention more than once. We teach it in our workshops to veterans and they’re using it and therapists are using it. That stoppage, putting it into the protective mode. Imagine, you’re out there and you’re stuck in that mode and it’s hard to turn it off. That’s what we’re dealing with when somebody comes back.
It seems that what it relates to as well, Sande, is the difference between being responsive to something, reacting to something and overreacting to something. When we get into this fight-or-flight area, I’ll speak to me and my big elephant in my room, which is at times, I can get to a place where I react or overreact to things instead of respond. What I think I hear you saying is there’s a simple method like tapping. There are many simple methods, but one of them being tapping that literally can take you out of a place of overreacting or reacting to things to be able to get greater results and be further grounded. Is that true?
It literally stops that panic mode. One of our key people, her name is Cass, a West Point graduate. She has two or three Master’s Degrees. She’s decided now she’s going to become a psychiatrist. She will be fabulous. She was an army in charge of police and she was blown up. Her entire back and neck are titanium. She is absolutely incredible, absolutely positively brilliant and incredible. We were doing a little talk at one of the community colleges and she had come in and she had found out that she had not been accepted into a program that she had applied to ASU. She was devastated. We had people about 50 or 60 people there and they’re milling all around and I’m looking at her and I’m going, “This isn’t going to work. She’s not in good shape here for doing what we need to do.” Just emotionally, she wasn’t prepared. What do you do? Do you try to do what you’re going to do anyway, etc.? I said, “Just do this with me.” We’re standing there face-to-face in the middle of the crowd. People are going all the way around us and I say, “Just do this with me.”
I started tapping right under the collarbone and start taking some breaths and talking about even though this sucky thing is happening to me, I want to bolt. I want to run out the door and I’m very upset. I can’t believe it’s crummy thing that’s happening to me right now and I’m supposed to go on in five minutes and present as part of our team. We did this for just a few minutes and within a few minutes, she had released that fight-or-flight block that we were talking about. She was getting full oxygen to the brain and that she was able to calm down. I have her teaching that piece in the workshops. The first thing she wants to do is tell everybody that story because unless you’ve experienced it, you go, “Yeah.”
Sande, this is fascinating to me and how you have taken a technique, which I’ve certainly heard about for well over a decade and applied it in some different ways. For our audience who may have never really heard about tapping and when they hear the story about the gal you just shared, they have to be going, “That sounds too good to be true.” There are tens of thousands of people using tapping to permanently get out of panic mode to reduce and eliminate stress. In your mind, what is tapping?
Tapping is EFT, which stands for Emotional Freedom Technique. It is literally tapping on a handful of acupuncture points. Those points are the bottom of your palm. They call that the karate chop. If you were going to just take your hand and hold it so that the bottom of the hand touches the surface, you would be chopping on that bottom part. That’s an initial part. Then it goes at the beginning of the eyebrows, the side of the eye, under the eye, under the nose, on the chin, and right under the collarbone points. There are some other places. You can tap under the arm, on top of the head. Those are the core places.
While you’re doing that, you’re thinking about what is going on that sucks. What is the sucky thing in my life? We don’t have to jump to, “My life is so wonderful,” when it isn’t at that moment. When life sucks, you want it to be better now. Don’t send me here, send me there. I want something that’s going to work now. I teach this to all my students in the classes I teach at Phoenix College. I brought this into our military program and there are other practitioners around the valley who use this in their therapy practices. They think it is fabulous. What you’re doing is you’re saying even though this particular thing in my life sucks, even though I was extremely nervous about being on the show, even though I didn’t know exactly how it was going to go, and I am starting to get my anxiety up. Even though this is going on, I can get through this. Even though the sucky thing is happening, I can turn it around. Even though I really did not want to go out the door because I have this interview because I have what I have, because they turned me down. They didn’t notice it has me upset and I want to go into hiding or I want to go into super aggression. I don’t need it. I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to buy into that. I then calm down. I can feel better. I take some deep breaths.
Sometimes in a more emergency type of situation, I will go right under the collarbone and just cup one hand and hit both sides right under the collarbone. You could use both hands. It doesn’t matter, but the idea is to oxygenate. You want to breathe and you want to tap. You want to address what really sucks and you want to then move towards what you would like to have happen instead. In a panicky type of a situation, when you’re a fifteen on a ten scale of stress, that’s when you’re going to notice something different. If you have something you’re trying to make the decision about and it’s giving you a little bit of stress, like a one, a two, a three on a ten-scale, you’re not going to tell any difference. If you’re really upset, you’re going to be able to tell right away. I have even used this on the telephone during suicide crisis interventions to get a person down. There was no way I can track where the person was. She’s on the East Coast. She’s hysterical. Her boyfriend just broke up with her. She wants to kill herself and I have her sitting there 3:00 AM and we’re tapping. Every time I hear her voice go up, we start tapping again. You can do this for yourself. You can do this with someone else. You can do it to calm a situation. I’ve even done it with animals.
Speaking of calming, if you’d like to go deeper with this, if you’d like to find a way to release panic, if you’d like to release stress, permanently reduce stress, have a method that you can use, a tangible method that you can use, we’re going to go deeper here to reduce stress, to reduce the panic mode, stay out of fight-or flight, overreacting to things and have a predictable way to do it. I find this so fascinating. I’ve heard of tapping for years. I’ve even used tapping intermittently but maybe it’s just because of our affinity with each other and you tying it in that so now I see a new perspective. The other part, the teacher will appear when the student is ready. What do you see happen for people?
When you talked about the sports, a few years ago, there was a college baseball team that was in the College World Series and they were doing tapping in the dugout. Nobody had really heard of it at all and they’re sitting in the dugout tapping on themselves. The sports reporters sent somebody down to the dugout to find out what the heck they were doing down there because there are sitting and they’re tapping on their face, tapping on their collarbone. It looks silly, but they won the World Series. That was a real benefit, a real bonus. It can help you with performance enhancements because it allows your body to function and you’re able to move some of those blocks.
What are some of the results and breakthroughs of people using tapping and turning to it, not just a one-time fad or a magic button, but actually using it on an ongoing basis?
I teach this to my classes. One of my students said that they had wanted to get off their anxiety meds and they were working with their therapist or with their psychiatrist and they told them that they were doing tapping and they were tapping every day addressing the issues that we’re getting them upset. They worked their way down on the anxiety meds and substituted the tapping to help them no matter where they were or whatever was going on. I keep getting that feedback all the time. Besides the experience with the veterans, besides the experience with it in general for all these years that I’ve been using that, I was lucky to be able to go to a live series of workshops on it back in the ages when Gary Craig was running with this and very much a veteran supporter. I spent a week in Dallas really delving into this.
It’s so simple. The idea is even don’t worry about where all the specific tapping points are, just go right under the collarbone. Take your hand, tap on there, take a couple of deep breaths and just say, “Even though this particular situation is stressing me out, even though this person is stressing me out and I don’t want to overreact, even though I’m trying to be calm so that I can drive safely, even though I’m trying to be calm because the kids are screaming, and I don’t want to punch them so I’m just on my collarbone instead. Even though I don’t know how I’m going to get through the month with all these bills.”
The tapping theory is not going to deposit money in your account, unfortunately, but when you start to get stressed, acknowledge it. Don’t pretend you aren’t stressed. Don’t pretend that you’re supposed to be able to just automatically, magically take care of it and be fine. It doesn’t work that way and that our body doesn’t work that way. If we can just use this and just break that cycle of going deeper and deeper into the stress and into the anxiety and then to that we’re not good at everything sucks and that acknowledge it, say it out loud, tap on it, take some deep breaths and then check out some of the other resources. I have so many people come and say, “I’m so glad I learned that.”
If the audience want to go deeper, if they want to open the door to have a solution stress, a permanent solution for dealing with crisis, staying out of fight-or-flight or staying out of panic mode, anxiety, etc., where can they go to learn more about what you do or what resources should they check out when they do?
There are two different websites. There’s mine, SandeRoberts.com and there’s OperationShockwave.org. We both address the tapping. I know for sure that the SandeRoberts.com has a list of the different tapping groups. There’s Nick Ortner. There are several people who put on all types of resources. You could download diagrams, you can do additional research and find out who’s doing what. The lists of them and what they’re involved in and where you can go to their websites. I have my students go to CarolLook.com and she has an archive. I make them come back to class with a list of the three topics that grabbed them that they related to that were on her laundry list of archives of tapping and it will walk you through this at this point, this at that point and then you can just make your own path with it.
Sande, with everything we’ve covered now, what action steps would you like everyone to take as a result of our time together now?
I would love it if they went to the OperationShockwave.org and take a look at what we’re doing in the Veteran community and see when we have a bunch of free events. We have an open mic night and all different things going on and see if there’s anything veteran in their family that would need that or family member. There are all things all over the valley at least each month. I would love it if they went to my website and then pulled up some of those resources. There’s a whole emergency resource lists, numbers to call all the groups that provide services around the valley and nationally. Contact me and that is if anything that someone needs help with.
Reach out to Sande. Take action now. You can go to SandeRoberts.com. You can go to OperationShockwave.org. You won’t be disappointed. She’s got all valuable resources to help you, help your family, help those you care about, your team, if you’re building a company and a whole lot more. Make sure to do that. Sande, what’s the one question I should have asked you? What were you known for in high school?
High school journalism. I lived in the journalism room. I was on the newspaper and yearbook staff. I wanted to be a writer. On the paper, I want to be a reporter but I was really good with a lot of the technical stuff that other people weren’t so I ended up being the business manager, in-charge of this, that or the other. That really got me through high school. That was my saving grace.
What would you say is an unusual thing that most people don’t know about you?
That when all the girls in high school had movie stars on their walls, I had Mickey Mantle.
I want to you to take action with what Sande’s been sharing with you. If you’re at a place where you’re dealing with crisis, you’re dealing with stress, if you’re dealing with anxiety, try tapping. Tapping can really transform your life to reduce it, to give you a tool to start eliminating or reducing the anxiety, the stress, and turn it into a positive. It’s simple, it’s easy to do. Sande, it’s been a pleasure to have you with us here. Thank you.
Thank you. We’re going to do a three part tapping series at the East Valley Veteran Center in July.
I want to encourage you to take action with what Sande had shared with you. Put it in place, you won’t be disappointed. If you want to continue to be operating in crisis mode and operating out of high distress, not stress but distress and you want to be constantly overreacting to thing and in a state of confusion and overwhelm all the time, then don’t do anything. You’re lucky if you do a better way, and I would encourage you to go deeper with these resources. If you never want to miss an episode, go to GrowthToFreedom.com/subscribe. Our show is available through all the different types of podcast platforms you can think of. You can go find them there as well. I appreciate you being part of our show. Take action, seize the day, make it a great week, and we’ll see you next time on GrowthToFreedom.com.
Resources mentioned on this episode:
Sande Roberts has worked in the crisis and behavioral health field for over twenty-five years. Sande has a master’s degree in clinical psychology and is a certified master trainer in suicide prevention and intervention by the State of California Department of Mental Health.
Sande spent many years working with high-risk teens and families, including time spent implementing prevention programs for middle schools and high schools in Northern California. She spent a year with the Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Center in San Mateo, CA. For five years, she was in charge of a teen crisis shelter. When she returned to Arizona, she worked four years handling the highest risk Child Protective Services cases.
Sande is a conflict resolution and mediation specialist as well as a sports psychology specialist. Sande works with individuals in ultra high-stress professional positions/careers including first responders and those in highly visible positions like police, fire, and sports. She is adjunct faculty in the Psychology Department at Phoenix College in Phoenix, Arizona. As an expert in all facets of effective communication, she coaches, consults and mentors individuals, businesses and governments so to function better together and with their employees, customers, and families. Sande uses unconventional approaches to achieve amazing results in order to help her clients understand how they and others show up in their personal/professional behavior and communication. As a board member of the Arizona Association for Conflict Resolution, she helps schools implement peer-led mediation programs.
Sande was a co-founder of a RotaCare free medical clinic in northern California to serve the healthcare needs of under-insured and uninsured farm workers and residents. The clinic has been in operation for eighteen years.
Sande lives in Chandler, Arizona with her husband Rob. Their extended families include four children, six grandchildren, two great-granddaughters and assorted cats and dogs.