Rachel Kaplan, 39, is a marriage and family therapist who lives in Oakland. She recently debuted her podcast, “The Healing Feeling Sh*t Show,” to help people face and move through their emotional pain. While she devotes one episode to a defining incident from her adolescence, Kaplan also features guests as well as mini-therapy sessions with her clients.
J.: What’s the elevator pitch for your podcast?
Rachel Kaplan: It’s a journey of “emotional potty training” for grown-ups, where we learn how to have our feelings for the purpose of healing ourselves and creating emotional resilience. It’s like a transformational course, hidden within a podcast, to guide someone through their own journey of how to navigate their wounding and emotional pain.
J.: Creating a podcast is such a big undertaking. Why did you decide to do it?
RK: A podcast feels like the right vehicle to share a message that is desperately needed in our time, which is about uncovering the shame around emotional pain that every single human has. People need to become skillful in having their pain, as all the medications, distractions and consumption of drugs and alcohol won’t work. If we want to see our culture transform, everyone needs to learn how to have their pain. My willingness to use humor, intellect and my own experiences is the perfect blend to say, “Let’s get real and do this deep, painful thing in a lighthearted way, to make all of us feel better.”
J.: You had something tragic happen to you when you were a teenager that had a major impact on your life and your path.
RK: My first love and first attachment committed suicide when we were both 14. At first, I promised him I would commit suicide as well; that’s how I tried to stop him. It was utterly devastating. This sent me on a relentless and urgent path to find release and to learn to heal myself. By the time I was 18, I knew I wanted to study what actually heals people, and it’s been the guiding principal of my life. It took over two decades to feel I came anywhere close to healing vs. compensating for that loss.
J.: Though the podcast is about how to process feelings, bathroom business is a frequent metaphor. Why this focus?
RK: I think it is the single most effective metaphor for how to we learn to relate to our emotions. When we get a signal from our bodies, we don’t try to avoid the sensation or feelings, or compensate — we simply go, wash up and we feel better. If we were to get ourselves to a place where we can feel and move the feeling, we’ll feel lighter and better.
J.: In searching for healing, you looked toward Eastern religions rather than your own. Why, and what brought you back?
RK: Judaism was a big part of my early life, and in the immediate years after Keith’s death, my Jewish youth group provided me a sphere where I wasn’t known as the victim of that experience. But at a BBYO camp I asked a rabbi how our Jewish God could let my boyfriend commit suicide, and his answer was so completely unsatisfying to me that at that point I gave up on God.
It wasn’t until I started having my initial healing experiences through therapy my senior year of high school that my innate spirituality started opening up inside me. But I had no connection with it being Jewish. So I went and focused intensely on Eastern religions, going to live and study in Nepal during college. I read Rodger Kamenetz’s “The Jew in the Lotus” while staying at a Hindu ashram in India and had this bone-deep realization that even though being there was helping me navigate my own spirituality, I felt inspired to reconnect to my roots and find the hidden layers of Jewish mysticism. In the Bay Area I fell into a Judaism as colorful and mystical as the experience of spirituality I was uncovering inside. And I’m really grateful that Judaism has so much space for questioning and not answering everything, but rather sitting with the questions.