How to Do the Work by Nicole LePera

How to Do the Work by Nicole LePera

How to Do the Work summary

Clinical psychologist Nicole LePera was frustrated by traditional psychotherapy's limitations, so she developed holistic psychology. How to Do the Work is a philosophy of mental, physical, and spiritual health, a manifesto for self-healing and living a more vibrant, authentic, and joyful life.

How to Do the Work notes & quotes

Here are my notes and quotes on How to Do the Work by Nicole LePera. My notes are casual and include what I believe are the essential concepts, ideas, and insights from the book, along with direct quotes from the author.

  • “The goal of my work is to provide you with the tools to understand and harness the complex interconnectedness of your mind, body, and soul. This will foster deeper, more authentic, more meaningful relationships with yourself, with others, and within the greater society. What follows is my journey, and I hope that it inspires you to find your own version of the work.”


  • “Who doesn’t get out of bed in the morning dreading the day ahead? Who doesn’t feel distracted at work? Who doesn’t feel distanced from the people they love? Who in the world can honestly say that they aren’t living each day for their vacation? Isn’t this just what happens when you get older?”
  • When I turned thirty, I thought, Is this it?
  • It felt like something essential was missing. I felt emotionally alone, outside myself, detached, emotionless; I felt nothing.
  • I had persistent brain fog and gut issues and felt sluggish and dissatisfied.
  • I masked these issues by channeling these energies into action: cleaning the kitchen, walking the dog, and making endless plans.
  • I was staying busy to avoid deeply rooted unresolved feelings.
  • There was a message in all this sorrow: “It was time to come face-to-face with my suffering, my pain, my trauma, and ultimately my true Self.”
  • It was my dark night of the soul, my rock bottom, and I was determined to figure out what was wrong.
  • This led to a physical, psychological, and spiritual awakening and, eventually, an international movement.
  • I started doing things differently, and slowly, my life was transformed. In the following pages, I’ll share what I’ve learned.
  • Awakenings are not reserved only for special people; they are available to anyone and everyone.

Introduction: A Primer on Holistic Psychology

  • Holistic Psychology is about breaking negative patterns, healing your past, and creating your conscious Self.
  • “Truly comprehending your past, listening to it, witnessing it, learning from it, is a process that enables deep change. Change that lasts. It enables true transformation.”
  • Transformation requires your conscious Self, a willingness to dig deep, and knowing that change is not easy and that there are no quick fixes.
  • “Healing rarely comes without difficulty. It’s painful at times, and terrifying, too.”
  • “The real work has nothing to do with anything ‘out there.’ It has everything to do with what’s in you. It comes from you.”

1: You Are Your Own Best Healer

  • Everyone wants to change, but we feel stuck—bad habits, damaging behaviors, predictable and problematic patterns—which makes us feel lonely, isolated, and hopeless.
  • Many people have brilliant insights and mind-altering experiences but fall back into old, unwanted behaviors.
  • Singular transformative experiences can only take us so far. Fundamental, lasting transformation requires doing the work and making choices to participate daily in your healing.
  • My family of origin lived in a state of emotional avoidance.
  • Every client that came to me for physiological issues also suffered physical ailments.
  • Seeing that genetics are not our destiny (change is enabled through epigenetics) means our health is in our hands.
  • “When we don’t ask how we can contribute to our own wellness, we become helpless and dependent.”
  • We can reparent ourselves, to give ourselves the parenting we needed but never got.
  • Healing is a daily event, and you are responsible for your healing, which is enabled by choice.
  • Your intuitive self likely knows that more is available to you, or you wouldn’t be reading this book.

2: The Conscious Self: Becoming Aware

  • We all want to be better versions of ourselves, but our efforts have failed because we don’t understand our bodies and minds.
  • Learning to witness your internal world is the first step to healing and transformation.
  • Everything follows from here.
  • Consciousness is a state of open awareness allowing us to witness ourselves and the life around us while empowering choice.
  • “You are the thinker of your thoughts, not the thoughts themselves.”
  • As we grow, we become conditioned by others and lose touch with our intuition.
  • Most of us are stuck in patterns of thinking and behaving that are automatic and destructive.
  • “Running on autopilot is a function of our conditioning.”
  • Staying safe in the familiar is our natural pattern, and when we cannot change deeply entrenched patterns, we tend to shame ourselves.
  • “For many people, physical movement is useful in honing the attention muscles that are so key to consciousness.”
  • Developing attention stimulates neuroplasticity, or the ability to change our physical brain, disrupting our default thought patterns and waking us from living on autopilot.

3: A New Theory of Trauma

  • So often, we engage in self-betrayal or the “consistent denial of our authentic wants and needs that lead to destructive and self-harming behaviors.”
  • Dissociation is a “protective response to an event or situation that feels too big or threatening for the conscious mind to attend to.”
  • Many of us learn not to trust ourselves and look to others for what to think and believe.
  • Virtually everyone, to one degree or another, will experience trauma in their lifetime.
  • Robert Scaer defines trauma as any adverse life event “that occurs in a state of relative helplessness.”
  • People who experience trauma often are functional perfectionists, overachievers, or addicted to substances, those who suffer from anxiety, depression, lack of confidence, low self-worth, and an obsession with being viewed a certain way.
  • “Trauma occurred when we consistently betrayed ourselves for love, were consistently treated in a way that made us feel unworthy or unacceptable resulting in a severed connection to our authentic Self. Trauma creates the fundamental belief that we must betray who we are in order to survive.”
  • “The loneliness of feeling unseen by others is as fundamental a pain as physical injury.” - Lindsay Gibson
  • “Identifying your wounding is a fundamental step on the healing journey.”
  • “The first step to healing is awareness.”
  • “When a parent-figure denies a child’s reality, they are unconsciously teaching the child to reject their intuition, their ‘gut feeling.’ The more we learn to distrust ourselves, the deeper this intuitive voice withdraws, becoming harder and harder to hear. This results in lost intuition and internal conflict. We learn that our judgment cannot be trusted and look to others to shape our reality.”
  • Loss of Self often shows up as indecisiveness, procrastination, or an obsessive need to succeed.
  • “Just because we’ve experienced trauma does not necessarily mean we are destined for suffering and illness. We don’t have to repeat the patterns that shaped our early lives. When we do the work, we can change. We can move forward. We can heal.”

4: Trauma Body

  • “Unresolved trauma weaves itself into the very fabric of our being.”
  • Normative stress helps us grow and adapt, whereas chronic, persistent stress is draining and harms every bodily system.
  • Chronic stress is inflammatory and requires the body to devote excessive energy to ‘suppressing the inner chaos.’
  • When not consumed with survival, we can be our authentic selves—playful, joyful, compassionate, and loving.
  • Common issues related to an overactive sympathetic nervous system:
  • Lack of emotional resilience
  • Inability to form meaningful connections
  • Issues with concentration
  • Difficulty with cognitive tasks, such as planning for the future
  • Trouble delaying gratification
  • Common complaints of online SelfHealers community:
  • I can’t seem to connect with anyone.
  • I want friends but can’t seem to cultivate any emotional depth.
  • No one knows the real me.
  • I can’t find love.
  • Relationships are another area where we act out emotional addictions. Many of my clients found themselves in relationships with unpredictable and unreliable people.
  • One of the reasons we vent to friends and chronically complain is that it allows us to remain in a heightened state of arousal due to emotional addiction.

5: Mind-Body Healing Practices

  • My insights into the nervous system and polyvagal theory allowed me to shed something that had been holding me back: shame.
  • The mind and body are intricately connected.
  • “We can harness the power of our bodies to heal our minds and the power of our minds to heal our bodies.”
  • Studies show that intermittent fasting increases mental acuity, learning, and alertness.

6: The Power of Belief

  • “We often tell ourselves stories as an act of self-protection.”
  • Whether true or not, we make up stories or narratives about ourselves and our lives.
  • “The habit of thinking a particular thought over and over again changes our brain, our nervous system, and the cellular chemistry of our entire body, making it easier to default to such thought patterns in the future. In other words: the more we think something, the more we are likely to believe it. Our practiced thoughts become our truth.”
  • Beliefs repeatedly validated become core beliefs, which become part of our subconscious before age seven.
  • Core beliefs mostly come from parent figures, home, and community, and early experiences often shaped by trauma.
  • Just like we are not our thoughts, we are not our core beliefs.
  • Universal spiritual needs: 1) to be seen, 2) to be heard, 3) to uniquely express our most authentic selves.
  • Men, in particular, are prone to abandoning their authentic Selves and instead presenting a false Self that they think is more acceptable.
  • The more disconnected we are from our authentic Selves, the more desperate we are to be seen, heard, and externally validated.
  • “The more disconnected we are [from ourselves], the more depressed, lost, confused, stuck, and hopeless we feel. The more stuck and hopeless we feel, the more we project our emotions onto the people around us.”
  • “To truly change, you have to learn who you really are.”

7: Meet Your Inner Child

  • “The safer and more secure the bonds between a child and their immediate parent-figures, the safer and more secure the child feels in the world at large. Research has shown time and again that people who had secure attachments in infancy tend to have secure attachments in adulthood, showing the remarkable, lifelong effects of our parental bonds.”
  • The childlike part of ourselves is free, filled with wonder and awe, and connected with our authentic self's inner wisdom.
  • “Inner child wounds are the consistency unmet emotional, physical, and spiritual needs from our childhood expressed through our subconscious that continues to impact our present self.
  • Most of us feel unseen, unheard, and unloved and carry this pain throughout our lives.
  • Our long-term goal is to find security inside ourselves, to internalize the feeling of being good enough, a sense of okayness not reliant on others.
  • The more your presence and awareness grow, the greater your ability to distinguish between inner child reactions and your authentic Self.
  • “The work is never done.”

8: Ego Stories

  • Throughout our lives, we continually create and reinforce the story of who we are, which forms our ego.
  • The ego’s goal is to protect our identity at all times and at any cost.
  • “The desire to defend, condemn, and win? Do you need to be right or have the last word no matter the cost? The quick turn to judgment and disparagement? The need to compare and contrast? The feeling that you aren’t [fill in the blank] enough? This is the ego in its reactive state. When the ego is activated, everything is personal.”
  • The ego works overtime to defend its perception of who we are.
  • “The more we deny parts of our shadow self, the more shame we feel and the more disconnected we become from our intuition. This shame and disconnect are projected onto others. Suddenly, we throw the faults and criticisms we feel about ourselves onto other people.”
  • To continue to feel valued and safe and as if we’re a good person, we tell ourselves, We aren’t like them.
  • Judging others is addictive because it relieves us from the ego’s internal struggle with shame.
  • “When we identify the faults of others, we can ignore our own and even convince ourselves that we are superior.”
  • Our goal is to become the neutral witness of our ego as separate from our authentic Self.
  • “I am safe, and I choose a new way to experience myself as separate from my ego.”
  • Allowing what exists enables you to view yourself more objectively, more honestly, and more compassionately.
  • Without awareness of our thoughts, patterns, and behaviors, we are wholly identified with our egoic sense of self.

9: Trauma Bonds

  • We can only be as connected to others as we are to ourselves.
  • “A trauma bond is a relationship pattern that keeps you stuck in dynamics that do not support the expression of your authentic Self.”
  • A lifetime of unmet needs can cause us to feel continuously resentful, unfulfilled, or needy.
  • “When you don’t trust yourself, you outsource your worth to others. When you outsource your worth, you become chronically dependent on other people’s perceptions of who you are. Rather than making decisions or choices based on your inner knowing, you make them through someone else’s perspective.”
  • Being born into a chaotic and stressful environment, we seek similar domains as adults.
  • Trauma bonding can be unlearned, but it takes time and effort.
  • Notice how you feel in your body when you’re around people you know. Do you feel tense or anxious? Or free and safe?
  • Questions for developing emotional awareness:
  • What can I learn about myself from what happened?
  • What patterns brought me here?
  • How can I embrace discomfort and grow from it?
  • How can I learn to accept criticism without making absolute truth?
  • How can I forgive myself?

10: Boundaries

  • Developing authentic relationships with others (and yourself) requires boundaries.
  • Closeness involves mutual sharing with clear boundaries and the ability to tolerate differences.
  • “Learning to say ‘no’ is often the kindest thing you can do for yourself and those you love.”
  • Kinds of boundaries: physical, resource, mental/emotional
  • “Boundaries keep us connected to our intuitive voice.”
  • To practice setting boundaries, choose a time when you and the other person are as emotionally neutral as possible.
  • Sometimes you have to form the most extreme boundary: discontinuing contact with someone.

11: Reparenting

  • “Awakenings show us that who we think we are isn’t necessarily who we are.”
  • My spiritual transformation was a painful process—a shedding of old skin and becoming aware of myself in a way I never had before.
  • To love yourself, first you have to see yourself.
  • Loving yourself is how you give yourself what you weren’t able to get from others.
  • Emotional resilience is the ability to process emotions, communicate boundaries, and balance our nervous systems.
  • With awareness we can be the wise parent we didn’t get as a child. Reparenting enables you to meet the needs of your inner child through daily, conscious action.
  • In the process, “you will create a deeper, more authentic connection to yourself.”
  • Your wise inner parents accepts you while honoring your need to be seen, heard, and value for your authentic Self.
  • Four pillars of reparenting:
  • Pillar 1: Emotional regulation—learning “to cope with stress in a flexible, tolerant, and adaptive way.”
  • Pillar 2: Loving discipline—maintain boundaries with ourselves by keeping small promises and building daily routines and habits.
  • Pillar 3: Self-care—doing things that are good for us like meditating, journaling, spending time alone, spending time in nature, and moving our bodies.
  • Pillar 4: Rediscover our childlike sense of wonder.
    Reparenting is a radical act of self-acceptance.

12: Emotional Maturity

  • “Emotionally immature people are so uncomfortable with their emotions that they typically lash out and become defensive or completely shut down whenever they experience one.”
  • Children of emotionally immature parents become lonely and feel all alone in the world.
  • “The feeling of emptiness, I believe, comes from a continued disconnection from our authentic Self.”
  • When raised in a home were free self-expression was not supported, we become overly focused on what others think or feel about us.
  • Being able to tolerate differences is a hallmark of emotional maturity.
  • Emotional maturity is being able to tolerate, accept, and regulate all of our emotions without losing control so that others may express themselves authentically without getting defensive.
  • Practicing tolerating emotions allows us to see that emotions have a short lifespan, usually coming and going within 90 seconds.
  • Identifying sensations in the body can help us identify what we are feeling. “My face feels hot when Samantha makes fun of me.”
  • The key for parent-figures is to be okay with being imperfect.
  • Questions for developing emotional awareness:
  • What can I learn about myself from what happened?
  • What patterns brought me here?
  • How can I embrace discomfort and grow from it?
  • How can I learn to accept criticism without making absolute truth?
  • How can I forgive myself?

13: Interdependence

  • Developing emotional maturity is an evolving, everyday process of self-awareness and acceptance that never ends.
  • Real togetherness is the ultimate goal of the work.
  • Accessing our authentic Self brings joy, creativity, empathy, acceptance, collaboration, and oneness with the larger community.
  • Dr. Steve Taylor has observed the following qualities in patients who awaken: increased love and compassion, deep knowing, and inner calmness.
  • “When you stand in alignment, you will attract people who are similarly attuned.”
  • “When we are part of the collective We, the needs of one are the needs of all.”
  • When our nervous system is dysregulated, we don’t feel safe enough to connect with others. The loneliness makes it harder to weather life’s stressors, and we get trapped in fight, flight, or freeze, unable to form authentic bonds.
  • Our internal state is reflected in those around us, who internalize our energy, further promoting disconnection and loneliness.
  • Know that you always have a core resting state within reach that is safe from life’s changes.
  • Our task is to engage consciously with our inner world while fostering supportive connections. This is what binds all of humanity. “There is no ‘us,’ and there is no ‘them.’”
  • “As you heal yourself, you heal the world around you.”

Related Resources

Here is a list of resources, including authors, books, websites, podcasts, and concepts mentioned in How to Do the Work, which might be helpful for further learning.


  • Bruce Lipton
  • Dr. Gabor Maté
  • Dr. Terry Wahls
  • Ellen Langer
  • Pierre Janet
  • Dr. Bessel van der Kolk
  • Robert Scaer
  • Richard Lazarus
  • Susan Folkman
  • Dr. Stephen Porge
  • Justin Sunseri
  • John Bowlby
  • Mary Ainsworth
  • Dr. Murray Bowen
  • John Bradshaw
  • Dr. Cindy Hazan
  • Dr. Philip Shaver
  • Dr. Patrick Carnes
  • Dr. John Gottman
  • Dr. Steven Taylor
  • Dr. Vivek Murthy
  • Lydia Denworth
  • Dr. Aziz Gazipura

Books and Publications

  • The Body Keeps the Score by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk
  • Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents by Lindsay Gibson
  • Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child by John Bradshaw
  • The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships by Dr. Patrick Carnes
  • Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World by Dr. Vivek Murthy
  • Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond by Lydia Denworth
  • Not Nice: Stop People Pleasing, Staying Silent & Feeling Guilty..and Start Speaking Up, Saying No, Asking Boldly, and Unapologetically Being Yourself by Dr. Aziz Gazipura