Picture of Wayne Andersen

Wayne Andersen

Session 24: It’s Not Personal, So Make Your Life Yours

During our lives, things are going to happen. Events are going to happen. We cannot control what happens in our outside world but we can control how we react to those things.

Video Transcript:

All right. Well, welcome everybody to the Conscious Forum. I’m Dr. A. I’m going to facilitate this next hour with us together, and we’re going to explore a little bit more about understanding ourselves and one of the key things that I love is each day learning a little bit more about how to become the observer and really be conscious of how I’m thinking. You know, what are the things I’m thinking about? Why am I thinking those things? How can I improve my relationship with reacting to the outside world? Being in healthy relationships with people, and most importantly, just really not missing what’s going on around me. I think that the world we live in is full of distraction and — I’m just kind of chatting here a little bit while we give an opportunity for everybody to settle in and get ready to go.

So, one of the things I want to talk about today, just to refresh you, is I’m looking to really focus on how we can organize our life around what matters most to us, and being the Dominant Force in our life where literally, we can find easier ways for you to focus on your mind. I’ve set up the series of these monthly conscious forums and on my website, on my thought leadership website, drwayneandersen.com. We have all the recordings of all these sessions that we’ve been doing over the last couple years so you can look through and categorize the things you want to work on and then listen to these sessions and the idea of the forum is actually to have a place where we can interact.

One of the things I found a long time ago is that the book knowledge, the understanding, the knowledge that comes into, how does our mind work? You know, how do our emotions work? And our thoughts. How does that work alongside our consciousness? All those things are things that are really intuitive, but our personal mind, our ego, kind of gets in the way and kind of sabotages and tries to make the world a certain way, and tries to make us a certain way, where we kind of develop an identity that we live by. We personify. It’s our psyche. It’s our personal mind and one of the things that I’m learning is that these interactive forums are a great way to kind of take one of the sections of what’s going on in terms of our thought process, and our consciousness, and then getting you guys to ask specific questions or make comments so we make it practical. I mean, I’m not here to pontificate or to talk about consciousness from a didactic standpoint.

I set the stage with a few little slides to get it going, but more importantly, really what’s going on inside of you and how are you responding to it? One of the things I love is we have people that been on quite a while now and we can sense their growth, they can sense their own growth, and everything changes once — you know, I’m going to end with one of the slides I’ve used a lot lately, but I love, is that pain is in our lives. Things are going to happen. Events are going to happen, and those are going to happen and we have no choice because— we’re going to talk today about the outside world and our lack of control in that world, but basically, suffering — us suffering and creating cognitive emotive loops, where we’re thinking about this stuff and emotionally sensing and feeling this stuff continually is fully optional. There’s no reason to suffer and that’s what we’re going to talk about a little bit more today. So anyway, drwayneandersen.com. You can go there and there’s all kinds of resources there that you can use and simply, it’s designed to help you find more and more things, and we’ll be adding things to that to make it easier for you to focus on exercises and things where you can work on your own conscience.

So today we’re going to talk about, “It’s not personal, so make your life yours,” and you may think, well what do you mean by that, it’s not personal? Everything that’s happening around you is not about you, and you know, one of the things people don’t really realize is that because someone cuts you off in traffic, has nothing to do with you. Now if it causes an accident, then that’s to do with you, but beyond that, actually what’s going on is their issues, and the things they’re saying have very little to do with you, and it’s the issues and the his stored trauma, and the issues they’re having with consciousness, and being unconscious in a world where it’s important to be conscious. So what we want to talk about today are two really important things that happen in your life. First is, your life is unfolding and there’s two aspects of that. What do I mean, your life is unfolding?

From this moment, as I sit here today at my desk talking to you guys, things are going to happen, and the next thing’s going to happen, and then the next thing, and then the next thing, and we have very little control over those things, and what we’re going to talk about are the two parts of that. How can we now get to the point where we’re not suffering? So the first part is: there is no control. You know, one of the things that I can tell you is that — let’s say you’re planning to go camping tomorrow and you’re looking at the weather and you’re not sure and then you look all day long at the weather, and you think, “Well, is it going to rain? What’s the percent?” You look there and it says 60% and then you look and later on, it may say 70%, and you keep looking at it, and you’re thinking about it. Thinking that somehow tomorrow what you do will be influenced by how you can control it, and the reality is you have no control. Zero control over the weather. So tomorrow if you get up, it might be raining, or it might not be raining and certainly, it’s nice to know, okay, there’s a 70% chance of rain. I should probably take a raincoat, and some things that to adapt, but beyond that to spend the day incessantly thinking about that, it makes no sense.

You’re just creating suffering inside and stress inside and that’s pretty much with almost everything that’s going on. What’s going to happen next is going to happen next. Until it happens, you’re not going to know. So it’s really important to understand first, the control that we think we have, the things we think we can control, even things like our kids. I mean, I have two, 20 plus year old daughters. One of them just got married and the other one is studying to be a veterinarian, and I have an idea from talking to them, what they’re thinking about, but what they’re actually thinking about I have no idea. They have their own minds and for me to think that I can go in and predict what they’re thinking makes no sense. In fact, I’m probably going to be incorrect more than I’m correct and yet we look to try to manipulate our environment and the people in it to satisfy what we need, what makes us feel comfortable, and to understand that we have a little control of those things.

So that’s really the first step, is to realize that things are going to happen. If you want to know what’s going to happen, what happened next, and what happened next — and the other thing is to understand when something happens we really have very very little control over it. In fact, if you think of it, I’m in this space right here, you’re in your space, but basically a whole different bunch of things may be happening in each space, and we’re unaware of what’s happening. Like, I’m sitting here right now and I look over and Savannah’s cat was sitting on the couch, and you don’t know that, and that’s happening right now. Five minutes from now it may not be happening and I don’t have any control over that. I certainly don’t have any control over cats. I’m learning that I’m a dog guy, but anyway, the point I’m making is that we are disturbing ourselves, trying to correct and change the things that are happening outside our control. So that’s the first.

So understanding. Coming to that realization, I have very little or no control over all the things that are happening on the outside, but do understand the work is in the inside. It’s actually you making the decision that you’re going to be open and progressive to the things that are happening around you, and rather than trying to make things different and get water out of a stone, I’m going to go look for more water. I’m going to start understanding that if I don’t want to suffer and I want to become more and more agile, in terms of my emotional agility, how I think, how I feel. I want to get to the point where I’m in a full mode of no longer resisting. Accepting the things as they are, and really working on that to the point where I can pretty much take anything that’s happening in my life and I’m resilient enough because I’m spending that time, and the more that happens, they understand. You know, we talk a lot about the things that we feel a lack of and usually it’s a lack of control, a lack of approval, a lack of security, and the reality is we have all those things inside of us.

We may not think we do, but we do and when we lack it we strive to get it, and by getting it, it just creates more turmoil for us because if you’re worried about security you can go out and buy all the firearms and put double alarms on your house, but if you’re preoccupied with that and you think you lack that, none of those things are going to make you whole. They’re just not going to happen. Security comes from the inside. It comes from— yes, making the common sense things like locking your door and things like that and if you live in a dangerous area, obviously move out of that, but for a whole, most of those things are just neurosis. They’re things we’re making up in our head that just cause more and more suffering and the first thing to do is to realize you don’t have control over those things, but you do have control over how you respond. So you know, events are going to happen. It’s how we respond to them that makes all the difference. So I just think those are two really important points, and hopefully, some of you it’s reaching a cord so we can talk more about that.

So the question is, how do you look at your life? You know, are you open? Are you curious? If you’re no longer trying to change the outside world and you’re actually working on being more open and more present in the moment, then you’re going to realize that one miracle after another happens every day in your life. This morning the ocean — I live on the ocean, which I’m very fortunate, and every day I’m thankful for, and I look out and it’s just dramatic and the ocean is really, really rough today and it’s kind of cloudy but it’s not like, “Oh, I’m in Florida and it should be hot and nice.” No. It’s a beautiful day and enjoying the environment, and being fully present for it has made my day joyful. It’s been great here today. Looking at how dynamic the weather is and appreciating that, and I just think it’s so important for us to kind of, how do we look at our lives and are we open to the things that it can provide? And the question I always ask, is your past your asset? And previously, years ago, I used to talk about stop trying to give yourself a better past.

[00:10:49] If you had problems happen 30 years ago, your parents were mean to you, or something happened in your childhood and someone bullied you, those are all things that can create trauma during the moment. Especially when we’re really young because we don’t know how to process that well but those things basically, if something’s bothering you like that then basically — I used to say stop trying to change it because you can’t change it, but what you can do, and what we’re realizing in modern psychology is that in the present now, because you’re growing and learning, you can now reconstruct the past to serve you. So that’s what we talk about when we talk about “obstacle is the way.” There’s things that might have happened and as a result of that it’s made you stronger, maybe you couldn’t rely on your parents so you had to go do it yourself and it built strength in character in you, or something, but the point is, your past is an asset that you can use to actually build your future. So that’s really, really important.

Then is your future your friend? I get excited every day new things are happening. The world is changing dramatically. Not for the better in terms of human interaction with each other, and that’s kind of one of the things we’re talking about is being more open, more curious. More not trying to be right. More not our personal mind dominating, but actually, even being open to the idea that, “what I’m thinking, the opposite needs to be true,” and when that happens, all of a sudden the world opens up to you, and your future is your friend because technology is changing overnight. My goodness, the things that we can do now and have now are incredible, but if put in the right perspective. So as you move forward into the future you now have the ability to modify based on what you want and then by organizing your thoughts on where you want to go say, “yes,” to the things in a daily basis that move you to where you want to go versus the things that don’t, and you know, if we’re mindless and we’re just sleepwalking through life big companies — big companies have been data mining us for over a decade now and they’re using AI, and if you’re on the internet or somewhere and you’re not really, fully focused and fully present you’re more likely basically, to be doing something that they want you to do versus what may be in your best interest and that’s in terms of your health, your time with your family.

I mean just look at how we sit and we’re next to each other, and we’re on our phones and at dinner, and not— last night I went out with Savannah for dinner and there were people sitting there, all four of them are on their phones. They’re not even communicating with each other and we’re missing so much that way. So it’s important to start organizing and asking yourself the percent you are present because for most people, on average, they’re present for about 4 seconds and then something happens in their life. A lot of it is this, it’s this [Dr. A holds up a cellphone]. These phones. These phones are an amazing asset as far as convenience, if you want to go out and you’re in a foreign place, you want to go have a meal, or you need information, or you need directions, man they’re marvelous, but they also, while they’re doing that, they take us away from the presence we are with ourselves, with our surroundings, and certainly with our relationships. So, really important to understand that by stopping and actually sensing, where am I right now? What am I sensing and doing? Am I fully present? And what are you focusing on?

This is our most important asset. They say time and management, but actually, our ability to focus. What we call in psychology: selective attention. Being able to focus on what it is we really want to accomplish. So one of the leadership pieces that we put together is “leading from the future, acting in the now,” because if you don’t know where you’re going, you don’t know what’s important to you, you’re not organized in your life, you’re basically going to be randomly — like a little chip on the ocean. Just in a tumultuous sea. Just moving. Moving around in and out of things and everything around you, you’re reacting to, and you’re not going to go where you want. It’s important to just focus, like, “Okay, what is important to me?” and one of the clear things that should be important to you is to eliminate suffering. Is to actually get to the point where you’re no longer linking your thoughts, your feelings, your emotions, dominating your day. Your day should be dominated by what’s in the present moment. What do I want to be doing to lead to the things that are important to me? And the more you’re specific of that desired future the more likely you are to get it right and you’re more likely to be focused in the moment because you’re now focused on the things that are actually bringing into your life what are most important to you.

So really important, and one of the most important things really comes down to, do you want to be happy? You know, that is a choice. That is a fundamental choice. Do I want to be right in this situation or do I want to be happy? Do I want to enjoy my relationships with the people that are important to me, my family, my friends, my colleagues, or do I want to be right in that situation? Because basically, you can’t have both. You can’t always be right and be happy because you’re going to have to struggle and fight with that and your ego is going to set up artificial things that just aren’t true to help you deal with things, and you’re going to conceal. You’re going to withdraw from certain people if you have to be right, but if you’re basically, fully revealing what’s going on around you and with you, you’re now in position to actually build strong, vibrant relationships. Great relationships with your kids, with your family and also be happy. You know, listen, if something — an event happens, again, pain is not optional. Pain happens in our lives. People we love get sick. People die. We have events happen and we get in accidents. Things happen that are just part of life. They’re part of being a human being, of the eight billion humans living on the planet, but that we suffer with it is totally optional and so we have to make that choice.

So I make the choice day in and day out, now things happen that may be particularly sad, you know, if you lose a loved one, and I have a friend whose father just passed away last week and I’m you in that moment. I feel compassion and I feel some remorse, and then I basically, communicate with them, but basically, that’s an individual, situational thing where I feel an emotion, which is a natural emotion, but I don’t dwell on it. I don’t then for two weeks think, “Oh, God. They must be miserable,” and consume myself with thinking about something which isn’t helpful to myself and certainly isn’t helpful to my friend who’s had someone pass. Instead being able to be there to listen to them, to comfort them makes a lot more sense. So being happy is totally doable. It’s a choice you make and as I mentioned you can — last month we talked about reframing. Reframing is everything. Everything happens in our life and as it happens we can reframe it so that our perception and our preferences within that can be reframed to serve us to move forward. So if you know where you want to go in your life and you want to know where you want to go in your health, anything happens in between you look at it and say, “Okay, well here I made a mistake and I sprained my ankle.” So, “Do I need to work on my balance? Is my balance up? Are my shoes not correct? Are there things I can do to actually use this as a teaching so that I now can move on?”

You could be going through a divorce and you can either ignore it totally and just be upset all the time about it or you can actually use it [unintelligible 00:18:06]. As I go through this, let me now observe, and experience, and actually grow from this event so I learn more about myself. What’s important to me, and the things that aren’t, that I don’t care for, and grow from it. So it’s all about reframing. So it works and serves you. Even the most catastrophic things, and I talk a lot about Victor Frankle being in the concentration camp, but he learned so much in that unbelievable adversity which you never would want any human to have to endure. He learned so much because he reframed it in order to serve him. So rather than allowing it to break him down and lose hope for the future, and the things that were important. He now stayed in that moment that he was learning from these things. So important that we can shift and reframe things that happened so they now serve us.

So again, as I kind of end this and open it up for questions — pain is part of life. We’re going to have events happen but to be overwhelmed by them and continually grieved by them for a month, years, and decades is not necessary. It’s optional, and so this is a really important piece that you can work on, and again I like to end with this because if you think about it, that we’re even here, that the millions of sperm in the ovum that basically fertilized and allowed us to be here, to be on this crazy, round, gorgeous planet at a time when the rest of the — even the new telescopes, they’re using the James Webb Telescopes, they’re showing that in all the other galaxies, the thousands and thousands and millions of galaxies out there, we’re the only ones — so far — where we found life. I mean I think it’s great that Elon wants to build a colony on Mars. I don’t want to live there, I want to live on the ocean. I want to live where the sky turns blue. We have beautiful sunsets and sunrises. I want to be here and I’m grateful for that and I think the more we have that attitude and realize that, God, we’re so lucky to be here. We start thinking the consequences of whether I got the right taste, or the right shade of paint for my new house, or I got the right coffee maker, or whatever, really becomes inconsequential.

[00:20:16] So with that basically, this is kind of the focus of why we’re here and what I’m hoping that we can share and learn from is to build internal stability. That no matter what happens outside, as it comes in, we have the psychological flexibility to deal with it and then to deal with the external equilibrium, with the people and things that are important in our lives. So with that, let’s go ahead and open it up for questions, Rach. Let me come off sharing my screen and let’s see what we got.

Rachel: All right. First up we have, Shurree. Hi, Shurree.

Dr. A: Hi, Shurree.

Shurree: Hey, Dr. A how are you?

Dr. A: I’m great.

Shurree: Good. Okay. Well, that was amazing for starters, I really enjoyed and answered a lot of my questions and it kind of is very similar to my question, but I’m an empa. So my question is kind of how to navigate being an empath and constantly be affected by things other people feel, what they say, what they do, or what they’re going through, and let not let it affect me so strongly that it instantly will change my mood. It changes my motivation and it causes me tons of stress and anxiety like the flip of a switch, and it’s one of my biggest strengths but I feel like it’s also one of my big weaknesses and even being aware of it, I’d like to kind of learn tips to be able to sense and be empathetic to people but not let it affect me so strongly because I mean I’ll tell my husband and kids all the time. We’ll wake up and I’m like, Okay, go ahead and choose what mood I’m going to be in today, you know, as a joke, but it’s a real thing and it’s like one of those things I’m constantly aware of but it’s such a battle.

Dr. A: Yeah. Good. Well, those are great questions. Just for everybody, you know, define how you define empath. I mean, I think you did, but just do it, because obviously there are people from all walks of life here. I just want to know as you sense yourself, because that’s your identity, right? You’ve identified. So if you identified what an empath is and obviously what you are currently, how would you define that?

Shurree: I think mostly for me — it’s like that person doesn’t even need to tell me what they’re stressed about, or what they’re feeling, like instantly, I just sense it and then I am now that or like when I’m sitting in a room full of people or somebody says something to somebody I feel like I can instantly tell what that person’s feeling by what the other person said and I instantly go into defense mode like, “Oh my gosh. This person’s going to feel this or this,” and then I get worried and same with just talking to people. When they tell me something they’re going through or they give me their opinion on something that will instantly be my thought process and I will feel that same thing, or that will change my opinion, and if I have a really good pace going and I’m feeling lots of joy, and lots of motivation, and I’m like, “Okay, I’m ready to tackle the world.” I can talk to one person that’s kind of in the opposite frame of mind and I will instantly kind of revert to their frame of mind.

Dr. A: Yeah, that’s great. Thank you for doing that and I appreciate it. Yeah. So let’s start with a couple things. First of all, that quality if measured, is a great quality. In fact, if we go back 10,000 years ago, when we lived in a tribe, empathy — being able to sense each other and be with each other, and great oxytocin release, and these neurotransmitters and things was advantageous because we sense that. We sense community. We were able to sense other people. So that is actually, like you said, can be a really good trait, but when you internalize it— there’s two things you’re doing. One thing is you’re projecting, and you have to if it really bothers you, see there’s a difference between compassion and pity, right? And that’s a demarcation that you have to really sense because you start being overwhelmed by it, about them, and it almost becomes a projection. So there’s probably in you— because you’re a very sensitive— I’m really sensitive. I cry from the stage all the time and you know, I don’t care because that’s what I’m feeling in that moment. I’m feeling that sense of connection. Just like I love this forum because it’s an opportunity for humans to talk to each other in a way that’s both psychologically secure, gives us psychological safety, but also allows us to give insight to each other.

So those qualities are great. The qualities aren’t great when you internalize it. In other words, there’s a difference between being part of a relationship and listening and the other part is this, you are projecting, because you know this so well and you sense these feelings so deeply. You’re actually projecting what they’re sensing and feeling and in general you may be right, which you might be making of a bunch of stuff as well, right? Because you’re now looking at it through your lens. So a nice thing to do is to look at things that everything, whether it’s this glass, my thoughts, my feelings, are not me. They’re actually things that I’m observing. So when you’re interacting with another human and you sense, because you have great emotional cognizance and coherence, is that you sense and immediately gets conveyed to you. That energy gets conveyed to you. You’re internalizing it. It’s becoming part of you and that you do not want, and that’s why in general, if you think about it— I don’t watch the news, I’ll take in the morning and I’ll go to something objective, you know, not objective, but at least something on the online that shows me the four or five world events that are important. I’ll spend 10 minutes on it without anybody editorializing, or victimizing, or pointing fingers, but I stay away from that because what you put into you — input into you — affects your brain and the way you think because remember, you have all these moments when you’re connecting data points which could be from your own childhood. So you don’t know why you’re so strong in that, but you’ve learned to basically cultivate it and so you’re very sensitive to emotions.

The difference is, other people’s emotions are not your emotions and when you internalize it becomes part of you. That’s a real issue. So the first thing, really good thing for you to do is when something like that happens, rather than up, “I got it. I know what they’re doing. I feel it. I feel their pain.” That’s not your job to feel their pain. The compassion is to be empathetic as you said and being aware with kindness to them, but not having it become part of you because you’re actually projecting something you’re thinking, and if you say you know it, you know exactly what they’re feeling then you’re projecting your concepts, your thoughts, your personal mind onto them and you’re reinforcing that and as long as you reinforce that that’s going to continue because that’s one of your habits. Your relational habits is to be empathetic and to be really caring, and what you’re doing is, you’re not creating a hard stop, or a guardrail, or a border that keeps you from now taking that and feeling it internally. Does that make sense? [Shurree nodes her head]. So the first thing is the stop. Stop when you start feeling that and basically make sure you’re not feeling sorry for them, that you’re just simply compassionate for them and that you’re feeling it in that moment, and you’re open to what they’re saying, and giving them advice if they’re asking for it. They may not be asking for it. What you don’t want to do is to jump on their sorrow, right? You don’t, “Oh. I know exactly,” because then you are, if you think about the way we think about our relationships, is the Drama Triangle versus the empowerment triangle.

In the Drama Triangle basically, you’re helping them, you think, helping them, continue to be the victim. What you’re looking to do as a coach in general, is to empower them to go from victimhood to the creative process. So that any of these events they now take mastery over it, and then they can do it for themselves and rise themselves out of it and be able to accomplish it by guiding them to getting back into the creative process versus supporting them because you’re really, if you think about it, you’re being the hero, right? You’re “heroing” them by supporting that. Saying, “I feel it. I’m empathetic with you,” you’re reinforcing a behavior that’s not in their best interest because remember, we sense our feelings. We have fear. We have anger. We have joy and all those things by themselves are about 90-second processes but if you’re now connecting in with them and being the hero then what you’re doing is first of all, you’re basically perpetuating enablement versus empowerment and the second thing, you’re internalizing it and it’s affecting you and so like you said, you can be having a great day, you’re letting the way the wind blows affect how you feel in your own life and that’s not good. That puts you in a place where you become totally not the Dominant Force in your life and you become this huge, almost like a beacon for anybody that’s suffering, and you’re going to hero them and have them feel better and you’re absorbing it. You’re kind of like Mother Teresa. You’re trying to absorb all that energy and it’s not helpful to you. Does that make sense?

Shurree: Yes. Yeah. It absolutely does.

Dr. A: Okay, so from that, what’s the first thing you can do?

Shurree: I think I kind of look at it differently if it’s an adult or like my children, or family but one of the biggest ones is kind of like what you said, I’m [crosstalk 00:29:23]

Dr. A: Whoa. Time out. Your kids are humans. Okay? Just like adults are humans. They’re all humans. They may be at different levels of their psychological, their emotional, development and coherence, but they’re all humans and so it’s important actually not to look at them differently. Obviously, if they’re your kids you feel more of a need to control, but that’s actually not what you want to do either. You want to be fully present for your kids. Just like you are— see we have a tendency, family versus non-family, we will say or do things to the family that we would never do to our friends or strangers, right? So it’s understanding that mechanism for you has to be you doing no. From now on you need to stop— anytime you start feeling where you’re start— it’s going from you objectively talking to them, feeling, comforting them, to where you’re starting to sense that emotional, that you’re actually the energy is now moving into you, you know, that negative energy is moving into you. You need to Stop. Challenge., why that’s happening and Choose to remove yourself and be objective. Remember, you’re observing them, their thoughts, their feelings, they are not real. They happen to be what they’re experiencing and you are a different entity and yes, it’s okay to be compassionate, but it’s not okay to become the hero that absorbs that energy and brings it into your life. So it’s important for you— and with your kids it’s the same way. If you get mad at your— if your kids trigger you and now because you’ve opened this conduit where your emotions are so [intelligible 00:31:01] that like that they can change, you can have a great day and your kid tells you something or whatever, and that allows you to change, you cannot actually be a good coach to your child and a good parent because now you’ve triggered stuff inside of you that responds to all the things that’s your stored trauma, and now you’re responding in a way that’s not the most efficacious for your kid. Does that make sense?

Shurree: Yeah. Absolutely actually. I haven’t thought about it a lot. I usually think of it as the parent role, like go ask your dad or something, but when they’re coming to me it’s a lot of what you’re saying is I feel that I’ve been really good, definitely not mastering, but working on Stop. Challenge. and Choose., for my physical health and now it’s turning a lot— I love your— one of my favorite things is when somebody says something or when I’m feeling that way maybe I could just use your tip, like, okay, Stop. Take a sip of water. Just like internalize that for a second to think about my response, instead of being so quick to just instantly be like, okay, this is how we’re feeling this. This is it. So turning that Stop. Challenge. and Choose., on my mental, like I did my physical, is definitely something I could work on a lot better.

Dr. A: Yeah, and okay, so it’s actually more important. I mean, I hate to put— it’s great using it on your physical, and obviously, we’re all about the Habits of Health and learning physicality, but actually, your mental control is your physical. Remember that this thing up here, this mind, and when we’re in our personal mind, and we’re in our entity, and I’m sitting here, Shurree, as I’m the empath, and that’s my identity, and I’m upholding that. And your ego, by the way, your personal mind, that’s who you are and it’s affecting you. You just mentioned five different ways it’s affecting you negatively and so it’s affecting you negatively because you’re not objective about it. You’re actually subjective, and you’re making up stuff, and you’re so good at it that you can make up how they’re feeling and actually internalize that, and feel what they’re feeling, and that is never good because most people— remember, the world is in a negative bias. Most people are in the Drama Triangle and when you basically become the hero in that environment and you empathize— and actually I would say pity them, it makes it worse. It doesn’t make it better. There’s plenty of people that, you know — that’s why the Jerry Springer Show. There’s plenty of places to go hear about all the issues in people’s lives, right? I mean it’s everywhere, but your role for yourself first is to keep yourself healthy and when you say physical health, your mental health actually determines your physical health.

[00:33:32] I’m more and more convinced. That’s why I spend time in this area so much because I think it’s really the most important part for us to truly become self-aware. You’re self-aware of it. So that’s what I wanted to start with— actually, you’re self-aware. You’re already aware of it. Now it’s self-management and that’s a process. So every day— do it multiple times a day, and I like to use the analogy, because it’s so easy, it happens to all of us. Happened to me just yesterday. I’m in 35 mph traffic and the person in front of me is going 25. I can either make myself miserable about it or I can actually take that moment to use that as an exercise to grow myself and not let it bother me. Remember, the outside world we have little control over. The inside world we have full control. So each one of these moments with your kids, and what you’ll find is when you can eliminate the need that you’re triggered and you can respond to them from the prefrontal cortex, because yeah, you do have a role, especially as they’re growing up which is responsibility for their safety and their security, and those things are all great but when you overstep that role and you dominate, and especially as they get older because when they’re really little they’re going to listen to everything, but if you’re actually teaching them to communicate and have relational health with them early and just when they, basically when they do something that’s irresponsible, call them on it, but then tell them why and they understand that it becomes a relationship where they’re not scared of it and then you become partners in that growth development and you can actually transfer to them those skill sets you know. This skill set of Stop. Challenge. and Choose., is tremendous for young kids.

Once they understand that– that they’re not totally the victim to their emotions and they can start to respond to it then your conversations can become greater, fuller, and more. So I think you’re on the right path. Hopefully. Keep me updated on how you’re doing, but the first thing is, your job is not to take the energy from someone else and internalize it because as soon as you do that you’re affecting your emotions and you’re no longer— it’s kind of like I talk about the creek that has the rocks in it and has the tumultuous waterfalls. Those rocks in there, right? If you’re taking one of their rocks and you’re taking it into your mind you’re creating turbulence in your mind too. So the idea is to help pull them out of the rocks, right? Coach them. Help them become a creator of their own life. Not become the victim and the enablement of more of the same behavior.

Shurree: Yeah. I love that. I absolutely love that. Thank you, and it reminded me, I’ve watched one of those videos that you had with the creek and I actually watched it three times over again because it was so good. So it’s just a constant reminder. I’m gonna go watch that again because it’s one of those things, it’s not going to change. It’s something I’m gonna have to keep working on daily. Those are great tips. 

Dr. A: But what you’re doing your— understand this, what’s happening, Shurree, is that your identity will change. So I’d like you to get beyond that “I’m an empath” to “I’m an empath that’s working on becoming whole,” right? I’m working— and that’s your identity, and so you’re going to change your standards and you work on it every day because remember, we as humans have a negative bias. It was designed to protect us against real threats. Most of the threats in our life now are perceived threats. They’re not real. So it requires work to do, but the more you work, the more of these things and pretty soon you’ll laugh at how you used to behave and you’ll be impervious. You’ll again, be like the water on a duck’s back. Where these things will happen you’ll be able to be there and help switch that person from being the victim to be the creator of their own life, not continue to enable them to be the victim. Cool?

Shurree: Absolutely. Yes. Thank you.

Dr. A: That was really great. Thank you. Okay. Who else we got, Rach?

Rachel: All right. Next up we have Wanda. Wanda, can you come on camera and unmute yourself? There you are.

Wanda: Hey. It’s nice to meet you. Thank you for doing this and for the work that you do. Sorry about that [Wanda is referring to something that happened off-screen]. So I have a question and I’ll frame it with this, at a very young age, in a very large family with lots of siblings I became the hero after my dad passed away. It just naturally fell on me as a kid and I grew into that role with my siblings and then got married in my 20’s and my husband and I have adopted seven children and they all have gone through significant trauma. All of them except for our daughter Brooke with Down syndrome. We got her at birth. The rest were removals because of trauma and that being said I already had this natural inclination with my siblings to be the hero and I’ve been on a journey, my daughter with Down syndrome and I, have been on a journey, a health journey, for the last two years to lose significant amount of weight and in the process I’ve learned so much about my mindset and the work I needed to do there. That was the key factor to the obesity in our home, and so I’m doing a lot of work, and it’s it’s been a long journey, and it’s been good, but what I’m finding is, and what I want to ask you when you’ve created probably 38 plus years of the whole circle of your immediate family and your extended family all seeing you as the hero or sometimes the villain, when you don’t do things their way, or you try to get them to see that they need to do it on their own. How do we navigate them and guide them away from that dependence? That codependence on me as the hero? As I learn to navigate myself out of that.

Dr. A: Yeah. That’s a great one, and first of all, congratulations. You’ve got a lot of courage and you behave the way you knew how to behave, right? I mean that’s how you were brought up and so now you’ve created a pretty complex web around you with that dependency. So for you to do this work, the courage you have to do it, I’m in awe. Okay. It’s pretty cool. So with that much said, see I’m getting emotional, and it’s because I know how hard it is. I know how hard it is. It’s hard for us, you know, just like Shurree, it’s hard for us to change the program we’ve had for so long and when you’re surrounded by a bunch of people that are kind of part of the way the process was, and now you know, Wanda, is showing up differently and probably, they’re probably not happy because they’re dependent on that, right? So I mean, you’re showing a lot of courage and it’s going to take time. The most important thing of moving from them being the victim to the creator of their own life is to give them little wins where they’re actually doing it for themselves. I think nothing more important than that and it doesn’t, it’s not like it’s not like you go, okay, you put a new sign out: the sheriff has changed. I’m no longer the hero. I’m the coach, right? But what you can do is, over time, if this is how it was before and you stop doing that, they can do this, but there’s no one to do it with, right?

[00:40:58] So just through kindness. Through gratitude. Through observation. Through conscious listening. Just listen to their needs and look at helping how you can switch them so they can start creating what’s important for them because dependency never creates fulfillment. We are most fulfilled when we’re creating things that matter to us. So in each one of them, just find something that really they value highly and help them start taking control and command of it and your example, just that, when something happens that’s chaotic in the family, you no longer are coming in and saving the day. You are simply observing. Staying in the point and helping bring calm. So you’re not feeling. It’s kind of like the nuclear reactors, you know? They have those carbon rods, they put those things down which slow down that craziness, you know, where fusion starts happening, and it speeds up, and it becomes reactive. You’re now like a carbon rod in the situation where you just kind of absorb it and don’t respond to it from drama, but more from the creative.

So instead of being the villain you actually respond on helping them, challenge them to be more. Instead of being the hero, you now give them some things to work on to help them be better in that area, and again, from the— instead of being the victim, where it’s now happening to you, you basically show them how you’re creating a better life for yourself. Would you say your life, now that you’ve been on this journey the last couple of years, that you’re— inside of you, your suffering and everything has decreased?

Wanda: Oh, significantly. I tell people all the time. Yeah, I’ve lost 140 pounds and my daughter’s lost 90. So together, and with her having an intellectual disability, I feel like I’ve lost 230 pounds, but the weight that I was carrying emotionally and mentally is so much heavier than that and now I feel so much freedom, but it’s difficult when everyone around you was depending on that old version of yourself that I can’t be that anymore. I have to be true to who this process has created and I want to thank you so much because God has used the things that you have taught all of us to do to save our lives but now it’s, I can’t. I have to be true to who I’ve become in the process and 

Dr. A: And just so you know, even though they don’t, maybe some of them don’t realize that you’re actually being more helpful to them because you’re now setting a standard for them and the bottom line is, if you stayed in the Drama Triangle and didn’t do this work you would become progressively more and more less happy and also would struggle with your weight. Now obviously, we can’t make medical claims about how much weight you lost, but the point is, your ability to take control of this is the most powerful. That’s what I was talking about with Shurree earlier, is your ability to take it, and I’m in awe because it’s easy to say when you don’t have a lot of— you have complete control over your external world. You don’t, and yet you’ve made the changes necessary and just keep doing what you’re doing, and love on them, and have them have no reason because you’re not engaging. You’re not doing this. You’re not going to go there. They can go like that and eventually, they’ll see and they’ll see how much you care about them, love them, and how you really want to help them, and you know, you’re becoming more, and you’re becoming more conscious, and you will be better in your relationships and for those that continue— you know the old thing about the crabs in the pot? You’ve decided to get out of the pot and those that haven’t decided to do the work, they’re going to try to pull you back in and this work you’re doing now has allowed you to be resilient, and you’re just not taking the bait. You’re not going to take the bait. So I’m really proud, and I think you’re doing the right things. Keep it up and please keep me informed moving forward. How everything’s going. Okay?

Wanda: Yes sir. Thank you.

Dr. A: Thanks. Appreciate you. All right, thanks. Okay, who else we got?

Rachel: All right. We have Nikole and you’re here.

Dr. A: Hey, Nikole.

Nikole: Hi, Dr. A. Great to see you again.

Dr. A: Good to see you.

Nikole: What is the one thing that I can do to create breakthrough when I’ve had a year of setbacks and there’s no proof that I can change, and more specifically, with my kids, so desperately, want to be a conscious leader and I’ve been trying for years and I have no proof so far that I can make that shift and I had a very critical grandmother. She was lovely, like I was close to her, but I find myself just way more critical than encouraging to them and I just so desperately want to change it. I have no proof. So when you have no proof that you can change this, what do you do?

Dr. A: Okay. So are you sure you don’t have any proof? Honestly.

Nikole: I feel like I’m going around the same mountain.

Dr. A: Okay, but if you learn, if you learn— do you know what Stop. Challenge. Choose., now?

Nikole: Yes.

Dr. A: Do you use it yet?

Nikole: I’m still reactionary.

Dr. A: Every time?

Nikole: I miss the mark. I’m missing the mark. I had a victory this morning and I celebrated it. I had a victory this morning, I was like, “Wow, I reacted to that totally differently.” So I was able to do that this morning.

Dr. A: So the concept, the concept you just told me. The concept of yourself isn’t accurate. You just had a breakthrough this morning. You just did. You had something that happened, that allowed you to actually modify your behavior and not totally just react, right? [Nikole nods her head]. Okay. Remember, remember, it’s not going to happen overnight. These are habitual patterns of emotions and thoughts that are going to take time, but what you’re doing is you’re beating yourself up. You’re looking at, here’s the mountaintop. This is where I want to be and this is where I am and that is a huge— there’s a book called The Gain in the Gap and the reason why most people never make it to where they want is because this looks monumental. It looks so big and the mountain is so hard to climb that we make a little bit and then we go back and then we think, “Wow. I have this huge gap.” What I’d rather have you doing is here’s the present and here’s the past, and I guarantee, just by what you just said, is that you have made progress. Focus on the progress you’ve made. Focus on— and this is what I would suggest you do— do you journal?

Nikole: It’s inconsistent, but yes.

Dr. A: Okay, well I’m going to ask you. Okay, So it’s— how bad do you want to do— are you interested in no longer suffering?

Nikole: I’m desperate to not want to suffer.

Dr. A: Okay. All right. So I’m going to ask you to do a couple things. Get out a piece of paper and write these down, right here, okay? I want you to make a decision that every day you’re gonna journal and what I mean by that is you start out really, really, really, slow I mean just like— and put it at your bedside before you go to bed or in the morning, you can do it whenever it feels best. When you have 5, 10 minutes of private time. I like to use the twilight hour, but whatever works. You can reflect on your day. Write down one thing you’re grateful for that happened today. Something you did. One thing. Not 10 things. Not four pages, but we’re talking about breaking it down into a microHabit, right? Small. So easy that every night before you put your head on your pillow, you can do it in the morning too, I don’t care when you do it, but you actually write down something you’re grateful for and you spend a moment of time looking at that and saying, “Wow, that was pretty cool,” and I want you to do— I mentioned this before, but I think it’s really good, it’s basically doing a five-minute session with yourself. You can do it whenever you want to, but you’re being, you’re very cruel to yourself, okay? And it’s time to not do that anymore. So I want you to basically sit down, close your eyes, take a couple deep breaths and then say to yourself, “I am well. I am happy. I am secure and I’m at peace and ease with myself,” and I just want you to repeat that for a couple minutes and talking to yourself in your mind every day. Every day, and in those moments you’re going to start realizing that you are a human.

[00:49:45] You’re dealing with all the struggles, like all the rest of us, but it’s now time to be kind to yourself. Your concept— your concepts, your thoughts, your feelings are being used to sabotage yourself and it’s no longer necessary. Now I’m not a psychologist. I don’t profound to be a psychotherapist, but I do know this, I do know that our mind is our greatest asset and we can either use it to help empower us to become more or we can let it be our worst enemy and so I just sense to do that would be great for you, and then what I would do is start writing down one moment, just like the moment you had this morning where you had a victory. Okay? And then have one tomorrow, and then write down, where do I want to go in my life? In terms of my relationship with myself, with the people I love, my family, my friends, and do I want to make those changes? And I think absolutely the answer for you is, yes I do. So, then write down during the day the things that you did that support you making the changes in your behavior, your choice— you only have control over three things, your perceptions, your choices, and your behavior. So during the day write down, and then as you become better at journaling, then spend the time to write down during the day the things that you did during the day, and then at the end of the day— and this has been really popular for people, seems to really help them, get like three colored pens or markers, highlighters, or whatever, do one in green, do one in orange, and do one in red, and at the end of the day when you write down the things that you did today, if there’s something that’s support, loving, kindness to yourself and to others and it allowed you to grow into the things that are important in your life, put a green by it. If it’s had no effect, neither positive or negative, put an orange or a yellow, and if it’s been deleterious, and you said you keep doing the same thing, if you see red ones then focus, and then the next morning when you get up focus on, “Okay, I’m removing and I’m fully aware of when those red things happen and I’m now going to start basically stopping, challenging and choosing an outcome that doesn’t support this behavior which is led to a negative outcome in the past.” Does that make sense?

Nikole: Yes. Thank you. I’ve [crosstalk 00:52:10].

Dr. A: I want you to do that over the holidays and I want you to come on a report to me in January when we do this, okay?

Nikole: Okay. Thank you for the accountability.

Dr. A: Do it every day.

Nikole: Yeah. I haven’t been consistent. I have done it, but not consistently.

Dr. A: No, no, I’m not talking about the past. I’m talking about starting this evening or tomorrow morning, I don’t really care when you do it, and making the decision that you promised to me, to yourself actually, to me is not important, but you’re me, I’m going to hold you accountable, that next month and during the forum, that you’ll come on and you have done it. Even if you only— remember the time, it’s like microHabits. MicroHabits [intelligible 00:52:50] I’m going to do at least one sentence every day. Okay? And on the days when I feel like more, and do more, then write down more, right? So you do plus, but if you can only do one sentence, do one sentence, and then I want you to get up in the morning and I want you to actually look at that and say, what? Yesterday I actually had a game. I did three of these things during the day which I haven’t done before and now I have that gain and in three months by measuring those gains you will have changed your identity. You’ll be on your path to where you want to go, which is now being able to be in control of your emotions, your feelings, your thoughts, and be able to show up the way you want to. It’s a process and literally, Nikole, it requires daily work because you’re programmed a very different way and to overcome that you don’t get rid of bad habits, you gain new habits that now empower you and they bring you joy, gratefulness, fulfillment, and the things that will help turn around, and the last thing is, do that mantra every day, and be kind to yourself. Okay? And thanks for being here.

Nikole: Okay. Thank you [crosstalk 00:53:58]

Dr. A: Awesome. Okay, we have time for one more, Rachel.

Rachel: All right. We have Ruthie. Ruthie, can you come on camera? There you are.

Dr. A: Hey, Ruthie.

Ruthie: Hi, Dr. A! So good to see you. Thanks so much for having this call I just got to say again, how much I appreciate this call every single month. My question is, first I want to say thank you for Stop. Challenge. Choose., I love that. It’s already come up a couple times today. It is one of the most profound tools that I’ve ever been given and just like somebody else said earlier, it started out with like Stop. Challenge. and Choose., what I put in my mouth that was five years ago and now it’s more like Stop. Challenge. Choose., the way you’re going to respond to this kid. I’m a parent and so many other things, it’s just been such an empowering tool. I’m finding now that this isn’t all the time, but even as great as Stop. Challenge. Choose., is— I’ll take responsibility for myself. I hear this a lot from clients but I also see it in myself sometimes I consciously, I stop, I challenge, and I consciously choose the thing that I really don’t want to choose, and I was just hoping you could speak to that disconnect that can happen when there’s one version of me that sets my goals and decides what I want to do, and then another version shows up when all the temptations of the holidays, for example. I know this is— I’m talking to a lot of clients right now about that. How is that happening and what can we do to take back control in that moment?

Dr. A: Yeah. It’s understanding the— what does— What does the choice do short term, immediately, and long term? So just as an example, I created the transformational cycle which looks at immediate results versus long term. So just take an easy one. So when— if you go out for lunch at work and you have a cheeseburger in fries and then you really observe when you go back to work how you feel and how productive you are versus if you went and had a salad with you know some grilled chicken on it or something and you look at the behavior, what behavior you have as a result of that choice, and you can now bring it close enough so it actually matters to that moment. That moment, in other words, you made a choice and the outcome was bad. We know that over time, in terms of your health, over 3, 6, 12 months and certainly moving forward, that having a grilled chicken on a salad versus a cheeseburger and fries is going to have a dramatic effect on your health, but because it’s so removed in time we don’t associate with the future. We associate with the present and so it’s important to tie those two together. So that’s one thing. The second thing is to now make things have consequences that are beyond yourself. So for instance, let’s say one of the things you want to do is you want to start moving more and you say, “Yeah. I’m going to get up in the morning. I’m going to walk for a mile before I go to work.” You get— the snooze alarm goes off at six o’clock and you go, “Nah, I’ll do that tomorrow. I’m just going to sleep.” But if you had called up your neighbor and said, “Hey, let’s walk tomorrow morning at 6:15.” Then you would get up and do it.

So making immediate consequences is part of it and that’s a critical thing to do because everybody knows they need to eat healthier, move more, less stress, sleep better, but they’re not seeing what the consequences are immediately and so they put it off. They keep putting it off for tomorrow. So that’s probably one of the most powerful because it then becomes real in the moment and that can make all the difference. So that’s one of the things I would use and then the other thing is just give them, again, journaling. I can’t tell you how important journaling is because like if they go somewhere and they basically make a choice that’s not good, did they write down what was happening around them during the choice? So in other words, if you go— okay, so you’re going to a Christmas party. You go to the Christmas party and you notice that you had four drinks and then you ate everything in sight, okay? So the alcohol took away your inhibitions, which is what it does, and so then you have to make the decision before you’re in that environment that, “Okay. I’m going to be in an environment with all this good food and just from my jovial personality, and liking everybody, that if I have four drinks I’m gonna make bad choices all night.”

So instead you go up to the bar and you basically get club soda with a lime in it so then nobody knows that you’re not drinking [crosstalk 00:58:44]. What you don’t want to do— you want in other words, this is where surroundings— that’s why there’s six MacroHabits. Each one of these things is important and when you combine them all together your chances for success are a lot, lot greater. So in this environment you basically then would take the club soda with the lime in it, you go around and you would actually say,  “I’m going to really, be conscious and listen to these conversations. I’m going to choose—” If there’s something that’s an appetizer, that’s so fantastic, “I’m going to take just three bites because basically, I know I get 95% of my taste satisfaction…” because you still have this intact [Dr. A gestures to his head]. Once the alcohol’s taken on, if you’re doing that, you lose that, and then you eat everything. So it’s a matter of preemptively changing your surroundings and making the choices that allow you to enjoy the time and actually enjoy it more because what ends up happen is— you know, and you can just look in observation of this if you write it down in your journal, but if you go somewhere and you have four drinks, you’re sitting there and you’re talking nonsense, you’re eating everything that’s wrong for you, you wake up in the morning you feel terrible and you probably have a hangover, and you probably said things you didn’t want to say.

[00:59:50] So the reality is, let me start becoming the Dominant Force of my life, and what I mean by that is in this circumstance, is it going to happen overnight? Of course not, but if this is what I want, and I want to have the future, and I went to my doctor last month and he said you’re pre-diabetic and you’re gonna have to go on medicines if you don’t change your lifestyle, and you’re committed, because you love your kids and what’s most important to you, all these dynamics come into this and so that you’re making choices based on what you value most in your life and if it really comes down to it the reason why you should choose the outcome that is best for you is because it’s the thing you value the most, and the things we value the most, whether it’s our health, our relationships, traveling, our ability to be good at what we do, we need to make sure we’re keeping the one thing, the one thing, and that one thing is that these all are secondary choices that support what’s most important to me. That’s why the Lifebook starts out with really understanding why you’re doing this, and also what you’re really interested in doing, and making sure you’re picking the low-hanging fruit and starting with the things that are the easiest. Does that make sense?

Ruthie: It does make sense. I mean, what I’m hearing you say is bringing those consequences closer so that you’re making the association, and journaling would help with that, I can imagine. The accountability I think is also helpful, like having to face up to it. When I can get a client to tell me ahead of time I’m going into this, it’s going to be a challenge. I like to ask them. I want you to imagine yourself at the end of that event, how do you want to feel? Like what— when you’re getting in the car to drive home now, do you have control over how you’re going to feel? And then they start to make their own plan for how to get there, but it’s so easy to disconnect in that moment from what you want. So that’s a good.

Dr. A: You’re hijacking your brain, see? That’s the— you know, I show— in basically, Element Four, Healthy Mind, is you’re hijacking. It’s not making it up. This is where we make all the decisions that actually both short-term and long term lead to us being as happy, successful, fulfilled as we want to be. As soon as we get hijacked and we go into reactive state the limbic area takes over, and this part isn’t functioning, and so we do what feels good in the moment, and the bottom line is to be able to— the whole point of Stop. Challenge. and Choose., is that reactive place is our normal response. For us to be able to actually not let it hijack us is that gap. The Stop. Challenge. The challenge is the gap and as Shurree mentioned earlier in that gap, if you’re processing those emotions or those feelings, take some water. Do something. Prolong that gap to the point where you can [intelligible 1:02:40] what’s most important. So it could be that you know, what my, I’m a grandmother and I want to be here to watch my grandkids grow up and it maybe that visual of that, in that moment before I go and have that huge piece of fried chicken or whatever it is, and actually visualize that. I see me with my kids watching my grandkids graduate from high school, right? I mean there are things that are important to us, and to hold those things, and covet those things, helps you now make choices that revolve around not just the immediate, which you’re going to— which we talked about, but also the long term benefit of making those choices, and what happens is, you’re changing your standards.

Willpower won’t do it. If you go, I’m not going to do it with willpower, you’re going to fail every time [crosstalk 1:03:26]. Has to be that your standards are increasing. That you’re putting yourself and taking the non— the easy stuff first. That’s why I like to talk about the easy stuff of being behind a slow driver. Listen, that you get to the place you’re going to five minutes later doesn’t matter. So if it doesn’t matter, use those easy things. Don’t tackle the hardest things first. It’s like learning to play the piano or the violin, you start by learning the scales and then you grow into it. To attack the hard stuff. You start with these— and as you change every week, your standards change just a little bit. Then what happens is your identity changes and you’re no longer a person that basically gets drunk at parties because you value yourself. You respect to the people around you, you value your health, and you basically, these things are more important, and it’s all about your choice. Remember your perception, your choices, and your behavior are all you have control over. So, we’re out of time. Hopefully, that was helpful.

Ruthie: It was. Thank you.

Dr. A: See you guys in January. Have an amazing holiday. Enjoy all your time with friends and family, and practice this. Practice Stop. Challenge. Choose., and realize in this world we’re in, as crazy and as messed up as it is, your ability to now handle your relational health with others puts you in a place where they will be attracted, and joyful because you’re now showing them a path to basically become the Dominant Force in your own life. God bless you guys. See you. Bye-bye.

Share this post

Related Posts


Visit the new
Habits of Health

Dr.A’s Habits of Health second edition has been expanded, updated, and enhanced with the latest research and an evolved approach to finding health success in this chaotic world.