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Overcoming The Cuckoos That Plague Us: Andrea Anderson Polk #119

Warwick Fairfax

June 15, 2022

What do you think of when you hear the word “cuckoo”? Those cute clocks that chime with chirps at the top of every hour? There’s nothing cute about real cuckoos — predatory birds that camouflage themselves and their destructive intentions in visiting chaos upon other birds.  Andrea Anderson Polk, a licensed professional counselor and author of the new book THE CUCKOO SYNDROME: THE SECRET TO BREAKING FREE FROM UNHEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS, TOXIC THINKING AND SELF-SABOTAGING BEHAVIOR, discusses the behaviors exhibited by those we’re in relationship with that cause similar harm in our lives. The figurative cuckoos that plague us, she explains, take advantage of our fears, doubts, failures and grief. That’s the challenging news. The good news? They can be defeated, launching you toward finding new purpose and a life of significance.

 

To learn more about Andrea Anderson Polk and to buy THE CUCKOO SYNDROME, visit www.andreaandersonpolk.com

Highlights

  • The circumstances that led to her calling  (1:58)
  • Why cuckoos are so insidious (4:30)
  • How the cuckoo syndrome manifests itself in relationships (9:39)
  • Why escaping cuckoo syndrome isn’t as easy as it might first seem  (12:58)
  • Why embracing truth is critical to getting beyond cuckoo syndrome  (16:13)
  • The importance of realizing a crucible didn’t happen to you but for you (19:37)
  • How purpose is the antidote to cuckoos  (21:41)
  • The dangers of making dream an idol (24:28)
  • How darkness can breed purpose  (27:59)
  • The benefits when joy and sadness are mixed  (31:05)
  • Insights from Andrea’s free online cuckoo syndrome quiz  (39:06)
  • How our greatest place of pain is our greatest place of power  (43:44)

Transcript

Warwick Fairfax:

Welcome to Beyond the Crucible. I’m Warwick Fairfax, the founder of Crucible Leadership.

 

Andrea Anderson Polk:

A lot of my clients, if they’re engaged in a cuckoo dynamic, the most common phrase I hear is, “I don’t know who I am anymore, and I’ve lost myself,” because they unknowingly have an imposter in their life who has become their purpose. So they lose their purpose because all of their time, energy, and attention is on this relationship that doesn’t belong in their life in the first place.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Did you hear that phrase a cuckoo dynamic? Maybe when you hear that word cuckoo, it makes you think of those cute clocks that chime with chirps at the top of every hour. But that’s not the cuckoo we’re talking about on this week’s episode. Hi, I’m Gary Schneeberger, co-host of the show. Warwick and I had an eye-opening, soul-nurturing discussion with our guest Andrea Anderson Polk, a licensed professional counselor and author of the new book The Cuckoo Syndrome: The Secret to Breaking Free from Unhealthy Relationships, Toxic Thinking and Self-Sabotaging Behavior. She talks not only about the predatory, cleverly camouflaged actions of the birds themselves, but more importantly and practically, the behaviors exhibited by those we’re in relationship with that visit similar harm upon our heads and our hearts. The cuckoos that plague us, she explains, take advantage of our fears, doubts, failures, and grief. That’s the challenging news. The good news? They can be defeated. And she tells us how.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I so much enjoyed your book. Maybe, I don’t know if that’s the right word, but because part of is painful. As I was going through each of these chapters, it’s like, “Check, check. Yeah. Experienced that one. Been there. Wow. This is…” So I don’t know, at least a survey of one, it’s absolutely makes sense. Obviously, I love the last few chapters, which talk about transforming your pain into purpose, but there’s so much in this book that I just love and it rings so true. It’s understandable why you’ve helped so many people because you have a philosophy and a method that works, that actually helps people break free from the shackles. So we’ll get into this in a minute. I’d like to start a bit with this, what we call on Crucible Leadership the origin story. Tell us a bit about why you wrote the book, why you went into counseling? What’s the origin story that made you feel like this is my life’s purpose, to help people and to be a counselor?

 

Andrea Anderson Polk:

I strongly believe that our greatest place of pain is our greatest place of power and our purpose. My journey of healing started decades ago during a difficult season of my life when my parents were going through a divorce, which landed me in therapy and a personal growth journey. Out of that experience, it was so freeing for me that I decided to pursue a career as a licensed professional counselor in order to help people the way that my counselors helped me. So that’s the story of how I became a counselor.

 

Andrea Anderson Polk:

Then writing the book, it actually happened during my quiet time one morning, I was struggling in a relationship with a close family member that had left a peculiar wound in my heart. I had gone through forgiving this person. I had compassion, went through therapy again, learned how to set boundaries and was still feeling stuck. I felt guilty and selfish anytime I’d try to make room for myself in the relationship, and I’m sort of a geek. I like to study science and psychology, weave those things together in my own life.

 

Andrea Anderson Polk:

So I, of all things was researching cuckoo birds at the time, which I can get into a little bit later exactly what cuckoo birds are, but their nature is predatory creatures. They’re imposters; they’re brilliant manipulators and deceivers. I was looking through these pictures on the internet of what a cuckoo bird looks in real life. I had this breakthrough a-ha moment that I was looking for with this family member. It really set me free and helped me understand how to navigate through the complexities.

 

Andrea Anderson Polk:

So what I did is I laminated this photo that I found on the internet of the cuckoo bird, and I took it into my private practice. When I would meet with clients who were in a similar cuckoo dynamic, I would show them this photo of the cuckoo bird and it would evoke the same breakthrough a-ha moments, anger, self-compassion, tears. So that’s something I had been doing for years and decided to write a book about my experiences, their experiences. So that’s where the book originated.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

That’s awesome. So for those that may not know, just sort of briefly get into what the actual cuckoo bird does and why it’s such an insidious, almost evil little creature because that really sets the backdrop for your whole book. So talk about the cuckoo, what it actually does with the poor robins and what have you.

 

Andrea Anderson Polk:

Yeah. So in a nutshell… Well, first of all, when we think about cuckoo birds, we think about the wooden figurine that pops out of a clock that we remember from our childhood. But in reality, cuckoo birds are cruel and clever. They’re predatory creatures. The technical term is they’re brood parasites, which means that they will lay an egg in a host nest. For the purpose of this example, just going to use a robin and they will take advantage of the host parents so they never have to raise their own young. Then they cause harm to the host. So a parasite is someone that takes advantage of the generosity of another person withoutmaking any useful return.

 

Andrea Anderson Polk:

So what will happen is a female cuckoo will hone in on a host nest, so a robin’s nest, for example, and she’ll secretly watch the patterns of the robin parents. When the nest is empty, very quickly, she’ll swoop in and lay an egg that looks nearly identical to the host egg. She has, it’s an egg mimicry that’s found in their DNA. So the egg resembles the host egg in shape and color. So for example, it would look like a robin egg, blue with the brown speckles. So what happens when the robin mother comes back to her nest, she doesn’t notice that the egg is an imposter. She incubates the egg as if it’s one of her own. Then another thing about the cuckoo egg itself and its DNA, it has a shorter incubation time. So it hatches first, before her eggs hatch. It grows very large extremely quickly. When you look at a picture of it, it’s sort of this grotesque-looking chick that overtakes the nest.

 

Andrea Anderson Polk:

Once it hatches, it’ll do one of three things. It’s born with this hooked beak. So it’ll either stab the other eggs in the nest to death, or while it’s still blind and featherless, you can watch videos, it’ll use its wings and knock the other eggs down the nest so they fall to the floor and die. It just does this instinctively. If that’s not sad enough, what happens to the host parents, the robins, is that their eggs never hatch and come to life. So they expend their energy, time, and attention on this imposter chick that’s not its own and they raise it. Even when it grows and leaves the nest, they still follow it around and feed it because a cuckoo chick, it has an insatiable appetite and this begging call. So the host parents exhaust themselves, like I said, feeding and taking care of it and their own eggs never hatch and come to life.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah. So let’s get into that metaphor. Obviously, you talk in the book about there’s different kinds of cuckoo syndrome, the relational cuckoo, unhealthy dysfunctional relationships and self-inflicted cuckoo, which is self-sabotaging toxic behavior. So talk about how this whole cuckoo syndrome manifests itself and how we think in our relationships.

 

Andrea Anderson Polk:

So a cuckoo dynamic in terms of relationships, it could be an unhealthy relationship with a spouse or a significant other, with a boss or a colleague, a friend, a family member, a counselor even, a mentor, pastor, ministry leader. It’s a relationship that is one-sided, where you are the one who is doing all of the work, where you’ve adopted a role as either the fixer, the pleaser, the rescuer, the always on-call person. But essentially your time, your energy, and attention is given to this unhealthy relationship. What all these cuckoo relationships have in common that I always tell my clients is that you’re the host. There’s something that you are doing in that relationship that is kind of feeding this dynamic. So I help my clients sort of go back into discovering what is making them susceptible or vulnerable to this one-sided relationship.

 

Andrea Anderson Polk:

So rather than being mutually loving and giving, it’s one-sided, which is the cuckoo is being a parasite. It takes advantage of the generosity of others and makes no return. You spend your life nurturing, sort of feeding this relationship, and you essentially lose your purpose because that relationship becomes your purpose.

 

Andrea Anderson Polk:

In terms of self-inflicted cuckoos, the cuckoo dynamic in your life, it might not be with a person, an unhealthy relationship with someone else, but it’s an unhealthy relationship with yourself, which I call self-inflicted cuckoos, which could be perfectionistic tendencies. It could be tying your worth and your value and your identity to your work, your career, your ministry. It could also be behaviors that can become addictive and take over your life. In terms of you exhibiting self-control, they start to control you. So that can be anything from shopping, exercising, online dating, your to-do list, anything that even can start out as a good thing or a passion, but it becomes obsessive and then also starts to take over your life.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Help the listeners understand how this is so common, and it’s not as easy as you think just to say, well, if you have any self respect, then you’d get out, which is maybe part of the problem. But help the listeners understand who may not be in this sort of toxic relationship in particular why it’s so insidious and why it’s just not easy to get out.

 

Andrea Anderson Polk:

Yeah, that’s a great point. The cuckoo syndrome exists on a spectrum. Abuse would be the most extreme form of that, and emotional abuse, for example, where another person belittles you, controls, deceives, manipulates. I’ve had a lot of clients over the years say it would be easier if this person had an affair or hit me because the crazy-making feeling of being in a relationship where the wound is invisible and the pain is so prevalent. It’s like a death by a thousand cuts where the person is in this extreme suffering, but the pain being inflicted upon them is not as obvious, which is why the cuckoo analogy has been so helpful for my clients because it’s a subtle, deceptive, manipulative process that occurs over a period of time. Even though this unhealthy relationship perhaps is right in front of them, it’s an invisible enemy. They can’t see it initially, especially in cases of emotional abuse, where typically the person shows their best self initially. They could be very charismatic. Again, it’s this sort of predatory behavior of I’m going to mimic who you are and what you want, but essentially you’ll be left purposeless.

 

Andrea Anderson Polk:

A lot of my clients who are engaged in, whether it’s an emotionally abusive relationship or, for example, I have a lot of clients with their adult parents, let’s say their mother who has maybe a mental illness or a personality disorder like narcissism, where it’s difficult for them to put their finger on the pain, but they’ve got this sort of invisible dynamic that they can’t see because it’s not obvious initially.

 

Andrea Anderson Polk:

So what I was going to say is a lot of my clients, if they’re engaged in a cuckoo dynamic, the most common phrase I hear is, “I don’t know who I am anymore, and I’ve lost myself,” because they unknowingly have an imposter in their life who has become their purpose. So they lose their purpose because all of their time, energy, and attention is on this relationship that doesn’t belong in their life in the first place.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah. I want to get to some of the solutions, maybe that’s the wrong word, but sort of the ways you combat this. Just, I want to touch on some of these. You have a great list here about when we’re talking about how you deal with cuckoos. I love when you say it’s time to guard your heart and stand strong, and you’ve got five steps: honor your reality, stop doing their work, set boundaries, validate your emotions, obviously seek professional help, which makes sense. But it seems like one of the core tenets you have is we need to stop avoiding truth. The path to healing means we might have to feel pain, even excruciating pain, acknowledge the truth, even let yourself get angry. There are ways of getting angry that isn’t destructive to everybody around you, but in a healthy way. So talk a bit about just some of those steps, especially this concept of navigating what is the truth, not the lies that you’ve been surrounded in a web of lies, so to speak.

 

Andrea Anderson Polk:

Yes. A common phrase found throughout the book that you mentioned that’s been helpful in my life and my work with clients is that we suffer when we avoid reality, reality being synonymous with truth. In the case of the cuckoo syndrome, one of the realities that we can avoid is our pain, which is understandable. Facing pain can be hard and scary. A lot of people don’t have the tools to deal with their pain.

 

Andrea Anderson Polk:

Another reality that we tend to avoid is knowing who we truly are and what we want. That’s what the last part of the book gets into, which I know that we share a common message on purpose, which is the antidote to cuckoos because the more… and which is interesting in biology with the cuckoo bird…Biologists have done studies that not all hosts get tricked by the cuckoo bird. The more unique their eggs are, the more that they have a signature on their egg, like squiggles and the more unique they are, the less prone they are to a cuckoo invading their nest. In the book, I talk about letting your eggs, which represent your purpose, hatch and come to life. So the more you know who you are, the more unique your purpose is, the less of a target you’ll be to cuckoo birds.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

I want to address the elephant in the room, to mix animals. That is, the elephant in the room is so much of what you’re saying, Andrea, is so much of what Warwick says and so much of what Crucible Leadership’s about. I mean, Crucible and cuckoo only share two letters, but they share a lot of points together when you get through it. The thing that you said there that really hit me was this idea of people trying to avoid their pain, and that in your book, you say your pain contains truth and truth dispels cuckoos because truth is the catalyst for healing.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

One of the ways that we say that in Crucible Leadership, part of coming back from your crucible is recognizing that what happened didn’t happen to you. It happened for you. Now, we say that not glibly. We say that a lot because that’s been Warwick’s experience and the experience of the guests that we’ve had on the show and people who’ve contacted us. Is that a fair statement to make, that if you make that mind shift from it didn’t happen to you, but it happened for you, that that helps you move along this idea of truth becoming a catalyst for healing?

 

Andrea Anderson Polk:

That’s a great point, Gary. I love that statement. I find that powerful and really resonates. A lot of my clients, once they realize they have this cuckoo dynamic, their initial inclination is to go into shame. Then we have a good laugh because I say, “Well, now you’re like a cuckoo 2.0. Now you’re going through suffering, and then you’re ashamed for the reality that it’s even something you’re struggling with in your life.” So what you’re saying, Gary, is so important because having that cuckoo dynamic or the crucible as you defined it, as a trauma or a tragedy, a setback, a failure. I love the work that you do in Crucible Leadership because it’s creating a culture of honorability that gives people courage to share things they might be ashamed of, their failures because they realize there is hope here and this crucible experience can become something beautiful. It’s this pain being transformed into a purpose. So we do share that message. I really feel that it helps eradicate that shame and gives people hope to realize it’s not the end of the story, the crucible or the cuckoo, it’s the beginning of purpose, really.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Let’s kind of transition into purpose. I just love how you say the antidote to cuckoos is discovering your purpose. The cuckoos in your life destroy your purpose. But I love talking about pain is a platform for purpose and your signature is your purpose. So talk about what purpose means, and you talk about purpose as different than dreams. So there’s a lot of things in there with signature eggs, purpose, dreams, or just pain. So talk about how you transition from pain. You’ve hopefully, with a trusted friend or a trained counselor, you know the truth; you know what reality is; you’ve felt your pain. You’ve even got angry. You’re maybe sobbing at times. You’re ready to move forward. It’s not going to be easy. But talk about from pain to purpose, the difference between that and dreams.

 

Andrea Anderson Polk:

Yeah. So once you’ve identified who or what the cuckoo dynamic in your life is and you go through the necessary work, it’s not easy. It’s hard. It’s the right kind of hard to deal with those cuckoos. Then it frees up your life to look at, “Okay. I feel like perhaps I’ve lost myself or I don’t quite know who I am anymore.” So it’s getting back to the treasure of your true self.

 

Andrea Anderson Polk:

I feel like there’s a distinction between dream and purpose. A lot of times I think the word dream can be tossed around and be a bit of a cliche about, well, dream big and finding your dream, which is an important part of purpose. It encompasses your dreams. The way I see purpose, it’s a study of the person and their story, which includes their pain. We were talking earlier about crucible experiences or cuckoos, which are painful. The failure of tragedies, traumas, setbacks become the platform for your purpose. So I see purpose more as a state of being rather than something that you’re trying to obtain. It’s more of who you are. For example, you’ve written a book, I’ve written a book. That can be an extension of our purpose, but it’s not the true source of our identity. So purpose, it’s a deep-seated joy of the soul and it’s your passions, your heart’s desires, your dreams, your visions, but also your pain and your story.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

I’ve learned this in doing public relations for people who’ve written books for years now, and that is if you want to find the nuggets in a book, go to the chapter titles and the subheadings within the book. There’s a subheading that speaks to this point, Andrea, in your book The Cuckoo Syndrome, where you say Your Dream Is Situational, but Your Purpose Is Relational. I think that’s a beautiful way of putting a ring around what you just said, that it’s not what you do so much; it’s kind of who you are. It bubbles up from within. Fair?

 

Andrea Anderson Polk:

Yes, absolutely. I remember in our initial interview that, Warwick, you said, “I put 12 years of my life into this book, but I don’t tie my self-esteem or self worth to the success of my book or how many copies it sells, or if it’s on a best seller list.” As I was preparing for the timer, I remember you had said that. So I do believe there is a distinction there, that you had mentioned that the true source of your identity is being able to help other people. So again, your book is a dream. It was 12 years of your life. But when you kind of pull out the purpose, the purpose is it’s your identity. It’s who you are. You can have different seasons of purpose, but at the end of the day, your purpose is secure. It’s not dependent on what you do or don’t do.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

One thing you said, it’s just made me think, dreams can be quicksand and from a faith perspective, if you’re not careful, they can be like idols. Obviously, bad things happen when you worship idols. For many people, certainly in the US, it could be success, fame, notoriety. They just never satisfy your purpose. For people of faith, ultimately your purpose and your faith in God, your purpose is like an anchor. Dreams are like quicksand. They will pretty much always let you down if that’s what you worship. So I don’t know if that kind of makes sense, that whole concept of idol, idol worship, if you will.

 

Andrea Anderson Polk:

Yes. I like the word idols. I say desire imposters. When I think about desires of the heart, I think about there’s desire imposters. There’s things that come up that we, like you were saying, worship or idolize, and then they become so big in your life. They could be good things or for a person of faith, even God things, something that you feel like God has called you to do. Yeah, I have compassion for people that obtain a lot of their worth, value, and identity from what they’re doing. Usually, there’s some sort of wounding, whether it’s in childhood or in their adolescent years, or even in their adult years where they’ve had some sort of tragedy or trauma, a failure, perhaps there’s shame around that. They don’t quite know who they are, what they want. So they’re more susceptible and prone to attaching their worth and value to more to a being instead of a doing.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

One of the things I found so compelling, it’s really the last chapter, which you talked about, Let Your Eggs Hatch: Treasures from Darkness. This is almost a confounding thought, but it’s also profound. You say purpose like treasure often come from darkness in hidden places. I think Gary was talking about earlier is what you said about Crucible Leadership, that tragedy, our crucibles can almost be a gift, which is a bit of a growth concept for me that I didn’t say probably up until a few months ago. But somehow there can be hidden treasure coming out of our pain, even out of our worst tragedy. So talk about that because that’s not a concept that makes sense to most people, almost anyone. So talk about how that you’ll have this incredible phrase and I’ll read it exactly. “Part of your story and what makes you unique is the process of uncovering the treasure hidden in the dirt of your life and exposing it in all its beauty.” So talk about the hidden treasure that’s often found, as you say, very aptly in the dirt of your life. How does that work?

 

Andrea Anderson Polk:

When I was studying purpose a few years ago, I stumbled upon this scripture in Isaiah that really spoke to me. I believe it’s Isaiah 45:3, which says, “I will give you treasures from darkness, riches hidden in secret places.” And that stood out to me in terms of our purpose being our treasure and coming from dark places. To me, that means painful places, tragedies, things that happen in our life that create an undercurrent of suffering. So going through this process, when you think of a treasure, often it has dirt on it. You think about a diamond. It’s found beneath the earth’s surface and there’s this beautiful process of allowing it to shine, allowing yourself to go through this journey of self discovery and not making yourself a project to fix.

 

Andrea Anderson Polk:

A lot of my clients come in and they’ve never been able to put a voice to their pain or share their story in a safe place. A lot of my clients come in, they’ll sit on the edge of the sofa, sort of anxious and it’s like they have this notion of can you fix me? So I just have to allow them to sort of sit back and I’ll say, “Share your story,” and co-creating this dynamic with them where they’re not afraid of their pain anymore. They start to learn the tools to be able to go into the pain and discover the beauty in that, the truth, and a lot of times the purpose that can be birthed from those places.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

There’s one other thing that has occurred to me. I don’t know if you’ve found this, but my book Crucible Leadership came out last fall, October, 2021. I began speaking to different places. But I remember a couple places. We went to Seton Hall in Northern New Jersey and then Taylor University, which is a great Christian school where my kids have gone in Indiana. As I was speaking to them, it just seemed a lot of young people really resonated with this message of hope and how crucible doesn’t have to be the end of your story, coming up for books and wanting me to sign them. And that was all gratifying. But there was a mixture of both joy and gratitude and pain all mixed up in the same ball or egg, if you will, because there was a sense of gratitude as in, “Wow, my book is making a difference.”

 

Warwick Fairfax:

But at the same time I was feeling joy and gratitude and being a person of faith, thanks to God, it also rekindled just the pain of loss of a 150-year-old family media business and relational pain. It was all in the same emotion. It was both. There was joy and there was a sprinkling of agony in there, too. It was another level of healing where you don’t get the level of healing unless there’s a bit more pain to be healed. So we’re never “totally healed”, but I don’t know if that makes sense. It was a weird mix of emotions. There was joy and immense gratitude mixed with a tinge of pain and agony. So I don’t know if that makes any kind of sense, Andrea.

 

Andrea Anderson Polk:

Thank you for sharing that. That is a huge revelation. I feel like what you shared is truth that can lead people that are listening to freedom. It’s this concept of both/and, and being in a season where you simultaneously feel joy and gratitude, but also a sadness and loss, which really shows an emotional maturity there because what happens when we numb our painful emotions, more difficult ones like rage, grief, sadness, shame, then we also numb the positive emotions. You can’t really pick and choose. So the fact that you were in this place where you felt gratitude but also felt some sadness and some grief is a healthy part of the process and necessary because that sort of experience does evoke a lot of emotions.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I think what you do, Andrea, is with counseling and your book, you give people tools. The goal isn’t to be in counseling forever, not that I’m against it, necessarily. Depends on the circumstances. But giving people tools to know the truth and deal with the lies. I mean, another example, not to get into too many details, but my wife’s mother passed away just recently, and we were going through some… Her estate wasn’t that massive relative to the way I grew up. There was some just legal things I was just helping my wife look at and it’s all very normal, all very standard, and everybody’s all happy and wonderful, very functional people on my wife’s side of the family.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

But there was something in there that just set me off. It set me off the deep end. I knew I was completely overreacting. It had zero to do with what was in these documents. My reaction was completely uncalled for, unreasonable, made no sense. I knew it in that instant. Why am I reacting this? This is ridiculous. It was objectively ridiculous. Obviously, I’m blessed. Married to a wonderful wife, 32, almost 33 years. I said, “Gail, I know this is ridiculous. I shouldn’t be reacting this way. So can you help me figure this out?” I had an idea of why, and obviously it led back to family business and various estate things, and I don’t know, whatever. I dealt with it and prayed about it and moved on. But I guess the point of the story is you can’t control your emotions. I can’t stop that. That’ll happen again. Something will hit me and it’ll touch off a nerve and a little bit of lava will break through and that’s just life.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So I want listeners to understand, no matter how functional and “healed” you are, you’re going to have those moments where a little mini volcano will burst or lava will pop out and you got to learn to have systems to deal with it. Not just say, “Oh, I can’t believe I did that. I mean, that was irrational.” I don’t know if that makes sense because I want listeners to understand no matter how functional you are, if you’ve had some level of brokenness, you’re going to have those little bits of lava that’ll perk up now and again. Doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. You just got to have a system and a method to deal with it, if that makes sense.

 

Andrea Anderson Polk:

Yes. That’s so important. I feel like a lot of people have a false narrative or a lie they believe, that if they experience painful emotions or intense emotions, then they’re doing something wrong. As you’re sharing in your experience, it’s quite the opposite. Our emotions, they’re indicators, not dictators. They don’t need to govern your behavior. You can respond instead of reacting out of an emotionally intense place.

 

Andrea Anderson Polk:

Being able to, first of all, give yourself permission and self compassion of, “Okay, this is a difficult time. These emotions are coming up.” There’s pain, perhaps, and there’s truth waiting in that pain to show you something about yourself or other people that perhaps you haven’t known before, or a deeper level of healing can take place. So absolutely. There doesn’t need to be this shame, or we don’t need to attach meaning to the fact that we experience emotion. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s wrong, or just because it’s scary or evokes some kind of anger towards a person doesn’t mean that you should eradicate that person from your life. It’s an opportunity to grow and learn from those feelings and to feel your feelings and make a conscious choice to do so is hard but important.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

That sound you heard, listener, was not the cuckoo clock striking the hour. It was the captain in fact-

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Cuckoo!

 

Gary Schneeberger:

-turning on the fasten seatbelt sign, letting us know that we’re going to have to land the plane here in a bit. But not yet. And before we do that, Andrea, I would be terribly remiss if I did not give you the opportunity to let listeners know how they can find out more about you and how they can get your book and find out more about it.

 

Andrea Anderson Polk:

Thank you, Gary. My website is andreaandersonpolk.com. It’s sort of a one stop to ordering my book that’s now available. If you want to work together one-on-one, there’s information on how to do that. So andreaandersonpolk.com is where you want to be.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Right. I’m going to jump in before I throw it back to you, Warwick, and this is the surprise I told you was going to come. On your website, Andrea, you have what you call the Cuckoo Syndrome quiz. I took that quiz this morning. It’s an amazing experience, and here’s why it was an amazing experience for me. I am not unaware of particularly one individual in my life who is a challenge, let’s say, sometimes. Not all the time. But is a challenge sometimes. But even at the question level, before I pushed submit, and I got my results, the questions that you pose in this very short quiz about the nature of relationships that may sort of prick at your self-confidence, may prick at your self-worth, may cause you troubles, I mean, it opened my eyes to the fact that this situation, this relationship was more harmful than I had realized even though I’ve talked about it with my wife; I’ve talked about it with people. It’s not, again, not like I’m not aware of it, but I became more deeply and more significantly aware of it just by the questions.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

I’m not going to bore everybody with my entire result, which I have right here. But there’s a couple things that in the result that were just remarkable. I couldn’t believe that this was extrapolated from the answers I gave. “Most days,” the results say, “You are trapped in a vortex of unhealthy relationships, toxic thinking, and self-sabotaging behavior occurring simultaneously.” I’m the combination cuckoo, which is the most common result, you say. “You really invest yourself deeply in both your relationships and your work, whether it be career, ministry, or a passion project. You’re intelligent, conscientious, and hardworking. You do it all. You have an intense inner drive to succeed in business, family matters and community related endeavors. The truth is underneath, you battle insecurity, doubt, and fear.” And this is a part that got me.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

“From the outside looking in, you’ve got it all together, or you’re living your dream. What people don’t see is that you’re burned out, fatigued, struggle with frequent bouts of depression and are anxious most of the time. Or perhaps you don’t spend as much time as you want with the people closest to you.” 7 questions on a quiz or 10 or 15, whatever they were, it nailed things that I, again, not unaware of at the surface, but you got me at the bottom. That quiz got me at the sort of the midpoint to the bottom of that iceberg. So thank you for that.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Listeners, I cannot endorse enough. This is not a Crucible Leadership endorsement because I don’t speak for all of Crucible Leadership. But Gary Schneeberger, the co-host of Beyond the Crucible says go to Andrea’s website, take the Cuckoo Syndrome quiz. You will find some revelation and some points to work on to pray about if that’s what you do, to work out, to talk to people about, to explore in therapy. Is a very valuable resource. Thank you for providing that. And it’s all free of charge.

 

Andrea Anderson Polk:

Thank you, Gary, for sharing that and your vulnerability, that the combination cuckoo…When I took my quiz that I created, that’s what I came up with also. I have this tendency in areas of my life where I get so passionate and I invest myself that I tend to burn out and neglect other important relationships in my life. So thank you for taking the courage to share that. I can relate to that. I feel like it’s something a lot of people can relate to, the cuckoo dynamic not might not be a person or a harmful relationship, but yeah, it can be something that’s happening internally. So I appreciate that. That was a gift to me for you to share.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Thank you. Warwick.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Wow.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Take us home.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah. Well, Gary, thank you so much for sharing that. That is really profound and helpful and it just goes to show, we may seem we have it all together and life is good, which I think for you and I, I think we know each other pretty well. I think all things being equal, life is pretty good. We’re both grateful and thankful for our wives and family. But it’s a journey and it’s just life is not easy. Yeah, so that was just profound. Thank you so much.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

The last thing I had on my notes, Andrea, that to me maybe I feel sums up a lot of what you’re about. This is what I’d written down from your book, and you say, “A person’s greatest place of pain is their greatest place of power. Their area of weakness is their area of gifting.” So talk about… That does feel like a message of hope. So talk about how that, what you just wrote there really is a message of hope for those who are listening.

 

Andrea Anderson Polk:

Yes. That’s interesting. When you read that, even though it’s something I wrote, it evokes an emotion. That was unexpected in me right now because my greatest places of pain growing up were counseling because of the decades of counseling people that were close to me went through that hurt instead of helped. Like God, the church, faith is a very painful place. I would never, if someone had told me that years ago, I just would’ve looked at them like they were crazy. Being able to talk with you today and have such a profound, meaningful conversation as a counselor, as a person of faith who’s helping other people has now become the greatest joy of my soul and all of those things were so painful to me growing up.

 

Andrea Anderson Polk:

So I feel very blessed to be able to sit here and to share with both of you today. It’s such a gift and it is a message of hope because the greatest lie we can believe is that we should avoid the places that cause us, not even the pain itself, but avoid the places that cause us the most pain. That’s such a lie because the truth is when you press into that, there is a beautiful purpose that’s waiting for you there.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I just want to add one more thing before we close because I think what you said is so profound, and as I look back at the pain I’ve gone through and losing this $2 billion family business and letting down parents and some pain from a close family member. As I’m able to use that pain to help others, there is healing. There is gratitude. It’s been years in the making. I’ve come to a point where I can honestly say I’m grateful for what I went through. There’s a sense of gratitude because the mission and purpose I have and perspective, I wouldn‘t be who I was without that pain. It’s just a part of my DNA. I’d be a fundamentally different person.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Not to get into historical figures, I think of Franklin Roosevelt, who was this happy-go-lucky aristocratic kind of guy, life of the party in the ’20s. He got polio as an adult, which is very rare and death sentence back then in terms of politics. You were meant to just hide away, it was shameful back then. Well, he became president during the Great Depression and he had a level of compassion and empathy and courage. He wouldn’t have had a prayer of being elected president if he hadn’t had polio, never would’ve happened. He became a fundamentally different person. So I don’t know if Franklin Roosevelt would’ve ever said his polio was a gift. Hopefully he did, but it was a gift of the country, both in the Depression and World War II. It’s a weird thing to say your greatest pain could be your greatest gift, but I think for me, and I think maybe for all of us, that would be the case. So I’ll let you have the last word. But does that make any kind of sense?

 

Andrea Anderson Polk:

That’s beautiful because our pain has a dual purpose, which is it allows us to move into a deeper level of freedom and healing and it allows us to touch the lives of other people because your pain, it makes you human and relatable. The purpose of purpose is to be able to serve other people and give them hope. It’s not because I’m so special that this happened in my life. It’s I want to be able to help you and serve you and give you the hope and courage to push through that pain and to see what’s waiting on the other side.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

I have been in the communications business long enough, listener, to know when the last word on the subject’s been spoken, and Andrea has just spoken it. On this episode of Beyond the Crucible, which I think, well, no, I don’t think, I know this is a historic episode of Beyond the Crucible because all three people who’ve been talking got really close to crying in talking about what we were saying. That says, in all seriousness and all transparency and all honesty, that speaks to the effectiveness and the import and the value of what it is that Andrea and her book The Cuckoo Syndrome bring to our discussion here on the show about how to make sure that your setbacks and failures aren’t the end of your story, how to move beyond them.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

So until the next time that we are together, listener, please remember that we do understand, hopefully you heard it in this episode. You’d be hard pressed not to have heard it in this episode. That we understand that your crucible experiences are painful, that they’re difficult to navigate. They’re difficult to move beyond. But again, what I hope you heard in this conversation is that they’re not the end of your story. They, in fact, if you learn the lessons from them, if you come to regard them not as something that happened to you, but happened for you; if, as Warwick said, you can see them as a gift, they can be the start of a new chapter in your story. That new chapter leads to the greatest place it possibly could, and that is a life of significance.