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15 Oct

Repurposing Your Inner Critic

An excerpt from The Final 8th
by Bridgit Dengel Gaspard, LCSW

No one enjoys being stuck and the misery is amplified when we have accomplished multiple steps toward a cherished goal — whether breaking a bad habit, losing weight, building a business, finding a mate, or finishing a degree — but just can’t seem to complete it.

In The Final 8th: Enlist Your Inner Selves to Accomplish Your Goals, author and therapist Bridgit Dengel Gaspard calls this demoralizing quandary when someone is so close to the finish line but just can’t seem to cross it “the final 8th” and introduces a powerful technique called voice dialogue to help readers recognize and overcome internal blocks that are preventing them from achieving their goals. We hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from the book.

# # #

The Inner Critic is programmed to be suspicious of anything new. It is wired toward attachment to your early caregivers and their core negative beliefs. To this persona, the final eighth is perilous! Because its honorable task is to protect you by avoiding abandonment, it’s hypervigilant for dangers like judgment, hurt, shame, or rejection. Its dysfunctional strategy is to criticize you before someone else does in the hopes of making you “better” in some way. Your Inner Critic simultaneously assumes you’re inferior (which effectively enforces core negative beliefs) and urges you to move ahead (which presupposes that you have the ability to do so) and thus berates you both for being inferior and for squandering your superior talents. This keeps you in your double bind, a dynamic your Inner Critic may not have been aware of until now.

Who does your Inner Critic work for? Think about that for a minute. Does your Inner Critic work for you? I don’t think so. Otherwise it would obey when you give it an order. Your Inner Critic works for your early caregivers and perhaps some of the folks referenced in your blameography. Out of this instinctive devotion, the Inner Critic can behave like a bully who resorts to threats and stalking. Making you feel bad keeps you in your double bind. It makes you the servant of your Inner Critic and core negative beliefs, holding you back from your final eighth.

The Inner Critic’s gifts are that it never seems to run out of energy or creativity, second-guess itself, or become overwhelmed with insecurity. Hal and Sidra Stone describe the Inner Critic as having “the intelligence of a genius, an uncanny intuition, an ability to analyze our feelings and motivations, a sweeping gaze that notices the tiniest of details, and, in general, an unerring ability to see and to magnify all our faults and shortcomings. It seems to be a lot more intelligent and perceptive than we ordinary mortals are.”

The energy and insights of the Inner Critic are like fire, which can either be harnessed to sauté piquant truffle fries or let loose to burn the barn down. Here’s an exercise that can help harness the skills of your Inner Critic and other parts.

The Final Eighth Process

Promote Your Alter Egos

List some abilities of your Inner Critic.

As an example, here are my Inner Critic’s abilities:

The ability to keenly observe how I don’t measure up.

The ability to brutally assess how I don’t measure up.

Limitless energy to judge how I don’t measure up.

Surprise your Inner Critic with a love letter. Thank it for having been such a loyal protector, with its blind devotion to saving you from abandonment at any cost. Let it know that the days of living as if your core negative beliefs were true are over. It is now the era of core positivity. In a word or two, describe how that feels. Some of my clients have chosen words such as radiant, free, and liberated.

Redefine and upgrade the talents and creative energies of the Inner Critic for beneficial use. Its laser-sharp perception is now assigned to supporting your final eighth goals.

Here’s how my Inner Critic’s abilities are reassigned:

Its ability for keen observation can be applied to polishing my writing.

Its ability for brutal assessment can be transformed into highly efficient time management, reminding me that if I want to accomplish all I hope to in a day, I need to get organized first.

Its limitless energy to judge can be transformed into a vast supply of energy to fuel my creativity and fun curiosity instead of reinforcing my core negative belief.

List some abilities of another subpersonality.

Here are examples from a client who recommissioned her Perfectionist:

Ability to maintain high standards, which I never measure up to.

Ability to be tireless, which makes me feel terrible, as, inevitably, I don’t measure up.

Ability to be competitive, though I never measure up or make the cut.

Again, surprise this alter ego with a love letter thanking it for its protection and letting it know that the time of living as if your core negative beliefs were true is over. It is now the era of core positivity. In a word or two, describe how that feels.

Promote Other Selves

Reassign and promote the talents and creative energies of these other selves. Make sure you assign them roles appropriate to their age and strengths: in other words, don’t ask your Magical Inner Child to function as the CEO of your final eighth project.

Here’s how my client reassigned the superpowers of her Perfectionist:

The Perfectionist’s high standards will be applied to make my home beautiful, because it makes me feel good and I deserve it.

The ability to be tireless will be applied to my final eighth goal, without my core negative belief putting the brakes on me all the time.

Its competitiveness will be assigned to motivating me so that when I set out to do something, like my final eighth, I have the strength to persevere.

# # #

Bridgit Dengel Gaspard, LCSW, is the author of The Final 8th and the founder of the New York Voice Dialogue Institute. She is a former performer who earned a master’s degree from Columbia University and teaches at numerous professional settings including Omega Institute. She lives in New York City, where she maintains a thriving private practice. Visit her online at  https://www.final8th.com/.

Excerpted from the book The Final 8th. Copyright ©2020 by Bridgit Dengel Gaspard. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

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15 Jul

Embracing the Unknown

An excerpt from The Ayurvedic Guide to Fertility
by Heather Grzych

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 10 percent, or 6.1 million, women in the United States have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant each year.

 

In The Ayurvedic Guide to Fertility: A Natural Approach to Getting Pregnant (New World Library, May 5, 2020), author and Ayurvedic practitioner Heather Grzych offers a gentle, holistic approach to understanding the physical, emotional, and psychological aspects of fertility based on Ayurveda, an ancient form of medicine that originated in India that means “the science of life.”

 

We hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from the book.

 

# # #

 

The process of creation is not one that can be controlled — there are so many unknowns — and this can be a little unsettling for a lot of women. However, creation emerges out of vulnerability and even darkness. Creation is dominated by unseen forces that later give rise to something tangible and seen.

 

If you are considering having a child and you want the experience to be as joyous as possible, then first you must understand the process of how things are created and surrender to it. Creation comes from the need for change. It doesn’t come when things are in perfect order. Otherwise, you wouldn’t need anything different to happen in your life; there would be no space for something new.

 

There are variations on how conception occurs. Some women surrender to this process easily, and some after a glass of wine. Some women need to have doctors do it for them. Even when a woman goes to see a doctor for IVF or egg freezing or any other type of intervention used for conception, there is a form of surrender. It is just a different kind of surrender than getting pregnant the old-fashioned way.

 

Your job is to start to get comfortable in the darkness of space — when you don’t have the answers or conclusions. Furthermore, your job as the female is specifically to let creativity happen through you. Yup, it’s time to give up some of that control.

 

How do I sell this idea to you, though, if you are like a lot of other modern women and like to make vision boards and execute plans to get toward where you want to go? It can feel like a real struggle when we cannot make something happen via our own thinking and doing, can’t it? It may feel difficult to let things unfold naturally until we feel we’ve done all we can. However, because conception takes more than one entity, a state of receptivity is important, and this can become compromised if we are trying to control everything. I’m not saying this is easy — receptivity and surrender challenge our fears around trust and even our own self-confidence.

 

In having a baby, you are not the one “making” anything when it actually happens. You are a vessel. You cannot control the outcome. You can try to influence it, but you can’t control it. This is part of why a fertility journey — like any creative endeavor — is a spiritual journey for the modern woman who has a hard time relinquishing control. First, you do the best you can to take care of yourself in your environment, you connect deeply with your partner (literally and figuratively!), and then you roll the dice. You may experience mental anguish in the void, and this is where it’s handy to hold a sense of faith and wonder. Allowing yourself to be surprised by the universe can actually be a really magical thing, sometimes even more fun than planning everything to a T and getting exactly what you want when you want it. Remember the saying “A watched pot never boils”? Well, it applies when you are trying to get pregnant, too.

 

Women who feel the call to conceive often start to grasp for a baby. They want to reach out and grab it, and they will do whatever they can to get it. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it sabotages the whole thing — because if there is too much grasping for the outcome, then there is no room for receiving the gifts that take you to the outcome. The baby you were meant to have will not come by your forcing. It will come by magic.

 

Pathologies are created energetically and physically when there are imbalances of giving, receiving, and grasping. Conception becomes blocked, elusive, or rejected when such pathologies are present. The balance point between receiving and giving is where you find the fertile ground for conception to take place.

 

# # #

Heather Grzych is the author of The Ayurvedic Guide to Fertility. A board-certified Ayurvedic practitioner, she bridges the worlds of conventional and alternative medicine to help women and men heal their physical and emotional lives. Heather is on the board of directors for the National Ayurvedic Medical Association and has consulted with doctors, governments, and insurance companies. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Visit her online at http://heathergrzych.com.

 

Excerpted from the book The Ayurvedic Guide to Fertility. Copyright ©2020 by Heather Grzych. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

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31 Jan

Signs from the Angels

An excerpt from The Angel Experiment by Corin Grillo

While some people think of angels as being sweet, loving, heavenly beings who sit around singing and playing the harp, in The Angel Experiment: A 21-Day Magical Adventure to Heal Your Life, author Corin Grillo assures readers that angels are actually powerful allies who are always available to help them manifest the health, wealth, and life of their dreams.

The Angel Experiment is based on a popular 21-day course Grillo has been offering only since 2015, with miraculous results.  It outlines a nonreligious, yet highly spiritual, step-by-step method for working with the angels in just five to ten minutes a day for 21 days.  The book’s guided daily meditations and invocations offer readers a tangible experience of how angels can help hem manifest the life they truly desire. We hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from the book.

# # #

 

People often get impatient when they begin consciously working with angels because they want a big, juicy, explosive first encounter with their angels. If you are someone who is waiting for Archangel Michael to make a 3-D appearance in your room, giant wings ablaze and angel choirs singing in the background, then you may be waiting a while. Though I am a huge fan of big and juicy angel encounters, from the years of doing this work for myself and others, I know that the angels don’t always come through that way.

 

Patience is required when working with angels, and so is managing your expectations. Those are two big keys in allowing angel messages to come through.

No Coincidences

Before I teach you the different ways that angels communicate with you, there is one thought that I want you to delete from your consciousness. This thought will absolutely block you from the reality of angels and miracles, so it’s important that you get rid of it once and for all.

 

The thought is “That was just a coincidence.”

 

The angels are master manifesters, and when you begin talking to them, they will do everything in their power to let you know they are real and right there with you.

 

Your angels send you signs of love, comfort, and even protection all the time, but one of the main reasons you may not have noticed them is because you may have been telling yourself all along that every cool thing that happens to you is “just a coincidence.” This one thought will suck your angel magic dry fast, so get rid of it from here on out.

 

Let’s reimagine this whole “coincidence” nonsense together. Have you ever turned on the radio and the song that came on had a message in it that was just what you needed to hear? Have you ever had a magical solution to a problem appear out of nowhere just in the nick of time? Have you ever met someone in such a weird way that it just seemed to be kismet?

 

Take a moment now to think of some of the more unexplainable and magical things that have happened to you that you might have written off as coincidences. When you add them all together, they start building a picture that doesn’t seem like coincidence at all. These little things can happen to you daily. They can be large or small, and if you dismiss them, you are missing the golden truth: that you are not alone. Your angels are listening to you, supporting you, and actively helping you whenever and wherever they can.

 

From now on, know that every so-called coincidence is actually help and support from your angels and the divine. If you master this one mental shift, your life will open up to a magical world that has been hiding from you in plain sight: the world of the miraculous.

Subtle Angel Signs: Intuition and Your Intuitive Senses

Angel signs won’t always look like what you might expect them to look like. Sometimes they will be big and loud, but other times they will be subtle and soft. The key to being able to recognize those signs, and to receiving the angels’ love and clear guidance as a result, is to tap into your gut instincts and your subtle senses, also known as your intuition.

 

We all have intuition, whether we are aware of it or not. Your intuition is like a muscle, and the more you flex it, the greater it grows.

 

Listening to your intuition and your intuitive senses is the most important skill you can learn in working with angels. Your intuition holds the voice of your soul, your song, and your essence. It’s through your intuition, your thoughts, and your feelings that the angels pass on amazing loving guidance. I don’t want you to miss this guidance, because you could be missing pure gold.

 

Most people in the West haven’t had much practice in flexing the muscle of their subtle senses, because Western culture tends to place a much heavier emphasis on logic and linear thinking than on intuitive, heart-centered consciousness. We in the West are so used to overidentifying with our loud, tantrum-like logical mind that we often completely overlook the awesomeness that is our intuition. And when I say “awesome,” I mean awesome!

 

It takes some practice, but if all you did was slow down and learn to listen to the still, small voice of your heart, instead of that wild pack of wolves in your head, life would go a lot more smoothly.

 

There is no better time than the present to begin learning to develop and trust your subtler senses.

 

# # #

Corin Grillo is the author of The Angel Experiment and founder of the Angel Alchemy Academy. A trained psychotherapist, angel channel, healer, and teacher, Corin has helped thousands of people all over the world go from angel-curious to angel-powered. She lives in Northern California. Visit her online at http://www.CorinGrillo.com.

 

Excerpted from the book The Angel Experiment. Copyright ©2019 by Corin Grillo. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

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30 Jan

A Bigger Yes

We are the luckiest.An excerpt from We Are the Luckiest by Laura McKowen

Before Laura McKowen got sober, she had a long, successful career in public relations in the Mad Men-esque drinking culture of the advertising industry, where “liquid lunches were frequent and drinking at your desk in the late afternoon was perfectly normal.” In the five years since she stopped drinking, she has become one of the foremost voices in the modern recovery movement.

In her new memoir We Are the Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober Life (New World Library, January 7, 2020), McKowen flips the script on how we talk about addiction and encourages readers not to ask, “Is this bad enough that I have to change?” but rather, “Is this good enough for me to stay the same?”

We hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from the book.

# # #

For so long, all I could see was what I would be losing by giving up drinking — love being only one representation of many. Despite all the aphorisms and positive thinking and stories I’d heard from other sober people promising me otherwise, all I could feel was the loss. Augusten Burroughs, in his book This Is How, said that what worked for him in getting sober was to find something he loved more than drinking. I understood that intellectually, and it sounded awfully catchy and inspiring, but it just didn’t feel true for me.

Being in that room with Seane, feeling whatever had been sparking up in me — even in the midst of all the emotional angst and discomfort — I started to get it. For the first time, I could imagine chasing something bigger.

# # #

Here’s what is true, for you and for me: the grief and the sadness are real. When you give up something you’ve relied on as heavily as I relied on alcohol, even when that something is actively destroying your life, it is a true loss. You can’t deny that, and more importantly, you don’t have to.

I thought there was something wrong with me for feeling so heartbroken. How could I actively miss a thing that had nearly cost me everything, including Alma?

There was nothing wrong with me, though. Alcohol had been my friend. It had carried me through a lot of pain I might have otherwise not been able to withstand. It had softened experiences that needed to be softened. It had been there for me always, without question. My drinking — and whatever it is you do to feel better — was born of a natural impulse to soothe, to connect, to feel love. And although alcohol hadn’t actually delivered those things, it was absolutely yoked to them in my mind. In my heart and body, too. It was just what I knew.

So of course I was terrified without it. Of course I missed it. The absence of it was terrible. And necessary. Maybe it’s helpful to linger there for a minute, in the terrible and the necessary. To start to see them as the same. Maybe in this way, pain is not such a problem.

When I saw Seane up there, doing what she did, I realized it wasn’t in spite of her pain that she was doing these things but because of it. She knew exactly what it took to walk through the fire. That is what I recognized in her. That was why I believed her.

Because that strength was in me, too.

I had always quashed my pain and cut it off before it could burn all the way through. I drank it away or ate it away or disappeared into another person or work. Being there over those four days, without contact with Jon or Alma or the comforts of home, had given me a taste of what it was like to just let it burn. I felt it. I felt it all over my body. And although it was excruciating most of the time, there were a few moments when I surrendered the fight and simply allowed everything to wash over me. In those moments, I found that right alongside the sharp intensity and unease, there was some small part of me willing to stay, another voice softly saying, I am willing to be here.

Behind all those nos and never-agains is a much bigger yes. It might not seem clear now, but it will be clear soon. Listen to the voice. Listen to your body. This is in you already.

There is a life that is calling you forward, begging you to meet its eye, to glimpse its vision for you. You can get only so far by running away from what you do not want. Eventually you will have to turn toward what you do. You will have to run toward a bigger yes.

# # #

 

Laura McKowen is the author of We Are the Luckiest. She is a former public relations executive who has become recognized as a fresh voice in the recovery movement. Beloved for her soulful and irreverent writing, she leads sold-out yoga-based retreats and other courses that teach people how to say yes to a bigger life. Visit her online at http://www.lauramckowen.com.

Excerpted from the book We Are the Luckiest. Copyright ©2020 by Laura McKowen. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

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28 Nov

ALMOND APPLE CAKE

Gluten free

By: Fresh n’ Lean – the nation’s #1 organic meal delivery company

Easy and healthy gluten free cake, an amazing combination of those amazing, warming flavors of apples, almonds and cinnamon. Perfect to share with family and friends over a cup of tea or coffee, but healthy as it is, one could even enjoy it for breakfast without any sense of guilt.

Total time: 40 minutes

Ingredients: (6 servings)

  • 2 medium apples
  • 1 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • ½ cup gluten free oat flour
  • 1 tbsp coconut flour
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup almond flakes

 

Instructions:

  1. Core the apples, remove the peel and cut the flesh in cubes. Toss in a bowl with coconut sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice. Set aside.
  2. Combine almond flour, oat flour, coconut flour, baking powder and sea salt in a large mixing bowl.
  3. In a smaller bowl, combine eggs, Greek yogurt, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Whisk well until smooth and fluffy.
  4. Add wet ingredients to the bowl with dry ingredients. Combine with a spoon, don’t over mix.
  5. Transfer to a round (about 8” diameter) baking pan greased or lined with baking paper. Add apples on top and press them gently into the dough. Sprinkle almond flakes on top.
  6. Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown on top. Let cool on a cooling rack before slicing.
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20 Nov

Paradigm Shift

Over the past two decades, there has been a quiet revolution in the fields of psychology and neuroscience challenging two fundamental assumptions. The first is that humans are hardwired to experience emotions and that emotions happen automatically. Unless you’re a saint, if you’ve been honked at by a rude driver, you will have seen this firsthand. You will have experienced reacting in a way that feels completely automatic (and likely regrettable). This is certainly what seems to be happening. The proximity between stimulus (the honk) and reaction (anger) is so close that your perception was that you had no choice but to react in a certain way. To make sense of this experience, you likely have attributed this phenomenon to the myth that humans are emotion- ally hardwired.

This is understandable. Early humans who were able to band together effectively increased their likelihood of survival. Evolution favored traits that let people be accepted by and remain part of the clan. In essence, get- ting excluded from the tribe was an almost certain death sentence. As a result, your brain has evolved to recognize threats to your social status and to respond in ways that protect you from risk to your psychological safety. In fact, brain scans show that when you feel excluded or rejected, the part of your brain associated with physical pain—the anterior cingulate cortex—lights up. Hence, as we saw in chapter one, when someone looks at you a certain way or makes a disparaging remark, your amygdala is triggered and institutes a fight/flight/freeze response, releasing the hormone epinephrine and instigating a series of physiological responses. This reaction, known as the amygdala hijack, in turn impairs your most sophisticated mental capabilities—your ability to think rationally, to be creative, to problem solve, to exercise self-control. What started out as an essential survival adaptation—to keep you safe from physical harm or to keep you included in the tribe—has become a major limitation to effectiveness in modern-day life.

So while there may be something to the notion of hardwiring, the truth is far more nuanced and interesting. Your brain is a prediction machine, continuously comparing new stimuli to past experience and making guesses about what action your body should take based

on those comparisons. Beginning in early infancy, your brain begins to construct rules or beliefs for each cate- gory of experience, and they get embedded in your pro- gram. Over time, these rules solidify, and you think it is just the way things are—the way you are wired. Driver honking at you equals someone treating you unfairly, which means you must be angry.

One of the leading researchers in this area, Lisa Feldman Barrett, has arrived at a profound and revolutionary conclusion challenging the myth that humans are hard- wired:

Our emotions aren’t built-in, waiting to be revealed. They are made. By us. We don’t recognize emotions or identify emotions: we construct our own emotional experiences, and our perceptions of others’ emotions, on the spot, as needed, through a complex interplay of systems. Human beings are not at the mercy of mythical emotion circuits buried deep within animalistic parts of our highly evolved brain: we are architects of our own experience.8

The second fundamental assumption being challenged is the view that what you perceive through your senses—primarily sight and sound—dictates the way you feel. In reality, it is mostly the other way around. We touched on this notion in chapter one with the introduction of polyvagal theory—the idea that your central nervous system is constantly scanning your internal state to detect physiological markers that suggest potential threats to your social safety. You continuously experience countless sensations in your body—the result of your glucose levels, breathing rate, lack of sleep, etc. Your brain’s process of registering and integrating changes in

these sensations is known as interoception. Interoception influences what external sensory input you pay attention to. If sleep-deprived and hungry, you will experience the same situation completely differently than you would if well-rested and fed. Again, Barrett does a wonderful job of summarizing this for us:

You construct the environment in which you live. You might think about your environment as existing in the outside world, separate from yourself, but that’s a myth. You (and other creatures) do not simply find yourself in an environment and either adapt or die. You construct your environment—your reality—by virtue of what sensory input from the physical environment your brain selects; it admits some as information and ignores some as noise. And this selection is intimately linked to interoception.9

The implications of this paradigm shift in under- standing human behavior are massive. The sum of your genetics, childhood experiences, culture, neurophysiology (including the anatomy of your brain and, more importantly, your physiological state) all help shape your program and, in turn, how you behave. Your brain uses the rules of your program to make predictions about what actions are most appropriate for any given stimulus. This understanding is revolutionary, and it’s good news. While it is certainly understandable to feel as if certain behaviors are automatic, you nevertheless have the capacity to control every response to every situation. The question now becomes what you can do to master your code (including your physiology) so that the actions you take are more consistent with the choices you would like to make. Since you are truly the architect and author of your experience, you have the possibility (and dare I say responsibility) to create the conditions that will allow you to construct a different way of perceiving and reacting to your circum- stances. The bad news? No more excuses!

 

Darren Gold is a Managing Partner at The Trium Group, where he advises and coaches CEOs and leadership teams at many of the world’s most innovative companies, including Roche, Dropbox, Lululemon, Sephora, Cisco, eBay, Activision, and Warner Bros. He is the author of the new book Master Your Code: The Art, Wisdom, and Science of Leading an Extraordinary LifeLearn more at www.darrenjgold.com.

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19 Nov

Authenticity

BOOKcover-LiveTrue-hiResCHAPTER 21: Authenticity

But above all, in order to be, never try to seem.

—Albert Camus

 

This above all:

To thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

—Shakespeare

 

Who are you really, if not who you really are? That may sound like some kind of Zen koan, which is a paradox, or a puzzle for Zen Buddhist monks to meditate on to gain enlightenment. Perhaps we won’t reach enlightenment by contemplating that question, but we can certainly find out who we are by knowing who we’re not. If we ask ourselves, “Who am I?” we will automatically answer with our name, or what it is we do for a living, our role, or our persona, such as “I’m a mother,” “I’m a doctor,” “I’m an actor,” “I’m a carpenter,” or even, “I’m an addict.” We may be any one of those things, or a combination of them. But unless we know who we are other than just our “identity,” or what we do, we might not know whether we’re

being true to ourselves, or authentic in whatever identity we’ve taken on. Maybe somewhere in your role as a mother, you’re conflicted about having given up a career to be a parent, or maybe torn about working and leaving your children at home or daycare. Or, maybe if you were/are an addict, you were once on top of the world but lost confidence in yourself at one point in your life, and couldn’t handle failure so you numbed yourself with drugs or alcohol. Or maybe you became a doctor because it was expected of you to be one since you come from generations of physicians, as I spoke about in the previous chapter on honesty. Who we are might not be what we wanted, or intended to be at all, but we’ve been that person for so long, who would we be otherwise? Some people just fall into being who they are, or inherit being who they are, or are told to be who they are. Others knew who they wanted to be when

they spoke their first words. But whether you announced your identity at your first dance recital, or you smiled compliantly when your father announced at your Bar Mitzvah that you were going to be a lawyer just like him, somewhere on the “Who am I?” train, you woke up and realized that you got on the wrong one, became inauthentic to yourself, and don’t know how that happened. There’s a great song by The Talking Heads, called “Once in a Lifetime,” which really sums it up:

 

And you may find yourself

Living in a shotgun shack

And you may find yourself

In another part of the world

And you may find yourself

Behind the wheel of a large automobile

And you may find yourself in a beautiful house

With a beautiful wife

And you may ask yourself, well

How did I get here?

 

It’s very conceivable that you can wake up one day and ask yourself, “How did I get here?” A good way to avoid that from happening is to ask yourself, “Who am I?” long before

you end up somewhere you really don’t want to be, or flummoxed by how the hell you let yourself get there. Mindfulness helps us not forget who we are. It keeps us present and aware, and if, or when we might feel an impulse to be inauthentic, it reminds us immediately that falseness of any kind feels wrong with every fiber of our being. When we’re mindful, we have heightened awareness, and with heightened awareness, it’s hard to be dishonest with ourselves. It’s like having an inner lie detector, as I’ve spoken of, or truth barometer that goes off inside us, and makes it almost impossible not to pay attention to it. Even if someone is suggesting what we should do, or who we should be, as I mentioned, we get a signal loud and clear that no one can decide who we are, and only we can determine our authenticity.  But whether you decided who your authentic self was long ago, somewhere on the life path you can either forget it, doubt it, turn away from it, give it away, or even make a decision that you dislike or hate who you really are, and deny ever being that person. It’s like an identity swap, only instead of taking on a role that isn’t you because you felt you had to, you gave your authentic self away gladly, and after living so long as someone you’re not, you’re now desperately looking for who you are, like a mother trying to find the baby she gave up for adoption. The good news is you can always find that person you once were, and when

you become reunited with your authentic self, it can be the greatest and most freeing day of your life. it’s not easy living a life trapped in inauthenticity, and it takes work to pretend to be someone we’re not. It can also be very painful to be seen, liked, or even loved for a false self, and terrifying that if, or when you’re found out that you’ve lived dishonestly, not only can you be met with tremendous anger and resentment, but you can also be blamed or accused for harming others in some type of way, be it emotionally or psychologically.

Ora Nadrich is founder and president of the Institute for Transformational Thinking and author of Live True: A Mindfulness Guide to Authenticity. A certified life coach and mindfulness teacher, she specializes in transformational thinking, self-discovery, and mentoring new coaches as they develop their careers. Learn more at theiftt.org and OraNadrich.com.

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21 Oct

“You Are What You Read”

An excerpt by Jodie Jackson from her book, “You Are What You Read”.

In the early stages of my research into the psychological impact of the news, I went to a constructive journalism workshop. At the beginning, the course director asked all the journalists in attendance why they had decided on their chosen career.

My scepticism about the creators of the news was suspended as I heard the participants’ answers: to make the world a better place, to hold power to account, to inspire, to educate, to give a voice to the voiceless, to expose wrongdoing, to stimulate debate, to challenge the status quo. I was in admiration of their intentions.

I later found that these journalists’ answers were incredibly common through research that showed that the journalists interviewed shared a common characteristic: the desire to contribute to the improvement of the human condition and make the world a better place. They then went on to say that they achieved this by reporting suffering as a way to counteract ignorance and stimulate empathy. This strategy can be very effective. But while it’s true that the news of others’ suffering can conjure empathetic concern and can lead to altruistic behaviour, which may reduce that suffering, it can also lead to personal distress. And those who experience such distress will not be concerned with the needs of others. Instead they will seek to reduce their own suffering by withdrawing or avoiding the news.

The initial buzz that had been created by these noble and inspired answers was quickly dulled as I began researching how people feel when they watch or read the news. Their dispirited answers included comments like depressed, paranoid, hopeless, insignificant and scared about our future.

The news is supposed to empower people by enlightening them with information that they otherwise may not have known. It should also help them zoom out of their personal lives and allow them to feel connected to the world around them. But it seems that when some people lift their head above their personal horizon, they immediately want to retreat to the safety of their own surroundings. They may even decide to put their head in the sand and ignore the wider world for the sake of their sanity; deciding to remain unaware of the daily disasters and instead choose the more comforting thought that ‘ignorance is bliss’.

People that avoid the news are often judged because of the enormous social pressure to be well informed. If you don’t know the detail of global policies, domestic issues and the latest corruption, you are often tarnished with the disapproving titles of ill-educated, naïve, lazy, self-involved or shallow. However, having spoken to some wildly intelligent, caring, benevolent and creative individuals who have chosen not to expose themselves to the news regularly, I can say that this is not always the case.

Although it is common for journalists to want to believe the stories they tell make the world a better place, it is more difficult to digest the idea that the news they are creating can actually cause harm. But it is time we publicly acknowledge that good intentions can have unintended consequences, and the stories we are told about in the news do not always have the positive impact that was intended by their writers.

We know that the news predominantly reports the problems of the world, from systemic social issues of poverty and inequality to individual petty crime, with very little to comfort the reader. We accept that these are the types of stories we expect to hear from the news. This expectation has become so entrenched in the news industry that a television news programme can have ‘more images of violence, suffering and death in a half hour than most people would normally view in a lifetime’.

So what effect does all this bad news have on us?

It is important that we ask this because the subtle potency of the news appears largely unquestioned by the very consumers who are affected by its content. Instead of questioning it, many routinely defend its position. But with the average American spending seventy minutes a day absorbing news content, it is important that we ask what are the psychological effects that the news has on us. It is time we, the consumers, turn the investigative lens on the news industry to expose the effects of the negativity bias on our mental health, the health of our democracy and our society. Once people begin to ask questions, it may be that people do not so quickly defend the incessant negativity of the news.

 

Jodie Jackson is an author, researcher and campaigner. She holds a Master’s Degree in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of East London (UK) where she investigated the psychological impact of the news. As she discovered evidence of the beneficial effects of solutions-focused news on our wellbeing, she grew convinced of the need to spread consumer awareness. She is a regular speaker at media conferences and universities. Her new book is You Are What You Read: Why Changing Your Media Diet Can Change the World(Unbound, September 3, 2019). See more at www.jodiejackson.com, and find her on twitter at @jacksonjodie21

 

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15 Oct

AVOIDING YOUR BEST WORK LEADS TO CREATIVE CONSTIPATION

The following is a modified excerpt from Start Finishing: How to Go from Idea to Done.

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There’s a big difference between what your best work and all the other work you do. Doing your best work is fulfilling while you’re doing it and also creates a bridges the gap between the life you live today and the life your soul yearns to be in. And your best work isn’t just about work you get paid for — it could be playing in your hobby band, raising your kids, being the church secretary, or community volunteer projects.

Your best work is always going to be challenging because it’s the work that matters to you. And because it matters to you, you’re going to be thrashing — that is flailing, having mini identity crises, “researching”, and all the other kinds of meta-work that doesn’t actually push the work forward — along the way. Best work is starting to look suspiciously like hard work, and our natural reaction is to avoid doing hard work and to instead find something easier to do.

When it comes to your best work, not doing it comes with two major costs: (1) you won’t be able to thrive, and (2) you’ll be stricken with creative constipation. Since I’ve already discussed the link between thriving and your best work, let’s talk about creative constipation, or the pain of not doing your best work.

Creative constipation is exactly what it sounds like. We take in ideas and inspiration that get converted into aspirations, goals, and projects, and at a certain point, if we’re not pushing them out in the form of finished projects, they start to back up on us.

And like physical constipation, at a certain point, we get toxic. We don’t want to take in any more ideas. We don’t want to do any more projects. We don’t want to set any more goals or plans. We’re full and fed up.

That inner toxicity becomes the broth that flavors all our stories about ourselves and the world; our head trash gets more pronounced and intense, and what we see in the world goes from bright to dark. Creative constipation leads to behaviors in which we lash out at the world—and sometimes even more intensely at ourselves. We become resentful of others—even people we love—who are doing their best work.

Our ability to feel positive emotional peaks is diminished at the same time that our ability to feel negative emotional troughs is amplified. You’ve no doubt encountered the tortured, depressed soul who’s creatively constipated—and you may have been there yourself.

There’s a reason that nearly every spiritual tradition links creativity and destruction: the same energy that fuels creation also fuels destruction. The Jewish, Christian, and Muslim God creates and destroys; “beating swords into plowshares” works equally in reverse. The Hindu god Shiva is seen as

a destroyer who makes way for creativity. Creativity and destruction are seen as a continual loop in the Taoist concept of yin and yang.

Spiritual insights such as these also show up in our everyday lives. Think about how often you’ve engaged in retail therapy—and thus destroyed your time and resources—because you’re unsatisfied about something in your life. Think about how often you’ve indulged in emotional eating because you’re not creating the change you want to see in your life. Think about how many people blow up their lives in a midlife crisis because the career and life they’ve made haven’t satisfied their deep needs.

Now think about the people you know or have read about who are doing their best work. Notice how they’re healthier, happier, (usually) more financially comfortable, and in good relationships with others? Doing their best work creates meaning for them at the same time that it cocreates who they want to be in the world. And these folks know that doing their work in the world is the wheel of change, meaning, and growth, more so than merely being stuck in their heads.

So at both deep and practical levels, we can choose to channel our energy to do our best work and thrive, or we can choose to leave it unharnessed to gradually destroy ourselves, our relationships, our resources, and the world around us.

Better to do the hard work of creation than the hard work of repairing the destruction we’ve wrought.

 

Charlie Gilkey is an author, entrepreneur, philosopher, Army veteran, and renowned productivity expert. Founder of Productive Flourishing, Gilkey helps professional creatives, leaders, and changemakers take meaningful action on work that matters. His new book is Start Finishing: How to Go from Idea to Done. Learn more at productiveflourishing.com.

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15 Oct

Are You at Risk for Depression?

An excerpt from Beneath the Surface by Kristi Hugstad

Ever since author Kristi Hugstad’s husband, after years of struggling with clinical depression, completed suicide in 2012 by running in front of a train, she has dedicated her life to helping to abolish the stigma of mental illness and suicide.

 

That mission is what inspired her to write Beneath the Surface: A Teen’s Guide to Reaching Out When You or Your Friend Is in Crisis, which speaks candidly to today’s youth — and the parents, teachers, and coaches who love them — about the anxiety, depression, and suicide attempts that far too often accompany the unique challenges that face their generation. We hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from the book.

 

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Most children grow up thinking their home, family, and upbringing are “normal,” even when they’re not. Children and teens living in a home where one or both parents are depressed often don’t realize this isn’t the norm — though this situation is more common than you may think.

 

In fact, fifteen million kids in the United States have parents with depression.

 

As a result, these fifteen million kids are at greater risk of developing depression themselves. But depression can happen to anyone. It can occur after a trauma or during a stressful situation, or it can develop due to someone’s particular brain chemistry. Why someone develops depression is important, particularly if it’s due to situational or lifestyle factors, which can be changed. But more important than the why is the how. As in, how do you deal with depression? That is the real focus of this book because depression can put someone at risk for any number of issues, including suicide. The faster you recognize the symptoms of depression, the faster you can get treatment and reduce the risk of other, even more serious issues. Additionally, the more you know, the better you can help others.

 

Are you at risk for depression? Consider the following questions, all of which may indicate that someone is already depressed or at risk for developing depression. If you find yourself answering affirmatively even to several questions, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re depressed, but you may have an increased risk of becoming so. Later we’ll talk about what you can do if you or someone you love is suffering from depression.

 

Depression Self-Assessment

 

Do you currently live with a family member who suffers from depression?

Studies have shown that living with a mother or father who has depression, whether the cause is environmental or genetic, increases your own risk of developing the condition. You may not know if a parent suffers from depression; if you feel safe asking, do so. If not, consider whether they exhibit the signs described in this book. Further, you don’t have to live with a depressed family member to be at risk.

Does life feel pointless?

Everyone may occasionally feel hopeless as they navigate through school, work, and life. But if a hopeless feeling persists day after day and affects your daily behavior, it could be a sign of depression.

Do you find it impossible to concentrate?

Depression can make it hard to concentrate even when you’re reading or watching something you love.

Have you withdrawn from your friends and family?

It’s important to do your own thing and be independent, but this should be balanced with a healthy amount of socializing and bonding with friends and family. Depression sufferers often turn down opportunities to be with others simply to be alone.

Have you noticed a sudden change in your weight?

Extreme weight loss or gain can be a symptom of depression. If you’ve lost your appetite or find yourself seeking comfort in food, this may be because your brain chemistry is being affected by depression.

Do you have insomnia, or do you sleep too much?

Look, teenagers need their sleep and often don’t get enough. But if you go through long periods of sleeplessness or of sleeping too much, depression may be the reason.

Do you have physical pain that won’t go away?

Depression doesn’t just cause emotional pain. Depression can cause chemical imbalances in your brain that make you perceive pain differently, and it could be the reason for a persistent physical pain that doctors can’t find a reason for.

Have your grades dropped? Have you stopped participating in extracurriculars?

Depression has two best friends: apathy and lack of energy. These can combine to affect your performance in school and your extracurricular activities, and they can sap your passion for activities you once loved.

Have you ever thought of suicide?

If you answer yes, you’re not alone, and suicidal thoughts can be caused by depression. However, if you’re currently thinking about suicide, seek help and treatment. Tell someone. With counseling and, if necessary, proper medication, you will begin to feel better. When you’re suffering from depression, the idea of feeling better might be difficult to imagine. This is the time to practice trust and courage.

 

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Kristi HugstadKristi Hugstad is the author of Beneath the Surface: A Teen’s Guide to Reaching Out when You or Your Friend Is in Crisis. Ever since her husband completed suicide in 2012, after years of struggling with clinical depression, by running in front of a train, she has dedicated her life to helping to abolish the stigma of mental illness and suicide. A certified grief recovery specialist, Kristi frequently speaks at high schools. Visit her online at https://www.thegriefgirl.com.

 

Excerpted from the book Beneath the Surface. Copyright ©2019 by Kristi Hugstad. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

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