Picture of Wayne Andersen

Wayne Andersen

Session 29: Where Does Our Happiness Come From?

Where Does Our Happiness Come From? I believe it’s important to explore that because it’s vital to the quality of our life and it’s essential to take steps to maximize. It’s not going to happen by itself. It’s something we must do. Just like we can go to the gym and work on our muscles, we can go to the mental gym and work on ourselves.

Video Transcript:

All right, well welcome everybody, to the Conscious Forum. We’ll give a minute for everybody to kind of settle in. Hopefully, you’ve got an hour to spend with me today and we’re really going to explore, put on our lab jacket and our goggles, and kind of go in and explore how our mind works and what creates the states that we’re in, and why that’s so important for us, because I will tell you that most people, when I ask them the question, are you happy? They kind of look at me like deer in headlights, like, I’m happy [unintelligible 00:04:20]. So we want to talk about that today because the whole idea of happiness, fulfillment, is something that kind of gets put to the side because of our crazy lives we live in, and the world we live in, and the need to do so many things every day, and to be exposed to so many things that may have a negative bias to it.

So, wait about another 10, 15 seconds. Basically, we’re at the top of the hour, and then we’ll get going. So. Alright, the Conscious Form, I’m facilitating this and just so you know, if you want to review this or others, go to my, website, drwayneandersen.com. That’s S-E-N, Andersen, with an E. And you can review all these. They’re all available. They’re all free of charge. There’s a bunch of information there to help you on your journey. And we’re going to talk today, in this form, which is defined as a place, a meeting, or a medium where ideas and views on particular issues can be exchanged and the reason why the word exchange is being used is I’m going to set the theme for today, but then it’s really important for you guys, if you’re feeling that feeling, if you want to share, you want to explore, you want to ask questions, because that’s where most of the learning comes and certainly, you know, I’m a student as we go through this forum every time and I’m learning from you and I’m learning through different situations; how we can move people forward? Because, you know, we’re going to talk about an issue and a subject that I think is really important today, because so many people seem to be struggling and suffering with life.

So the question is: where does our happiness come from? And to set the stage for this, many of you have or read the Habits of Health Transformational System, and I explain this from the standpoint of two different accesses and I want to start there today, and then we’ll move on to more about what’s going on inside of here [Dr. A points to his head].

So, the “Failure Success Continuum.” When we’re little kids, it’s kind of whispered in our ear what success is and then we go through a whole series of watching TV, being around colleagues, all these things that are defined to what make us successful and many of those things are extrinsic measures. There are three general categories: wealth, obviously, attractiveness, and fame are the 3 main characters. These are all extrinsic motivation and they’re all things that certainly we strive to have more of then less of, but beyond– I think last time I read it was somewhere around 85 to $90,000 a year. More money than that does not bring you more happiness.

I mean obviously, we want to be able to pay our bills. We want to be able to do the things that are essential in life. But beyond that, the real joy of having any more money than that, or really the memories it creates, and it’s really going to– we’re going to talk about it being an inside job. And so success basically, is defined as on one axis. But there’s another axis and that axis is purpose and meaning. It’s actually being fulfillment and depression on that axis. And this one is really important because people can have all the material things in the world and be miserable, as we know, and then there’s people that have very little that are extremely happy and fulfilled.

So if we look at those together, there are two axes and the axis of thriving is when you’re fulfilled and successful, and some measure of that, and I can just give you the example I shared in the Habits of Health, which was an example of my own life. When I was in critical care I loved what I was doing. I was financially successful, I lived in a beautiful house, and worked 80 hours a week and had very little time for vacations. Very little time for my family. My wife and I both worked at the hospital, so we would drop our kids off and we realized early on, after our second child was born, that we didn’t want that to define us. We wanted to have more freedom to be able to raise our kids and to be with them, and then to actually enjoy life and do something that was meaningful for us.

And so reacting to disease, the traditional medical path, didn’t work, so I left and struggled for a couple of years. Literally left. So if you went back on the success, back to the point where you’d probably consider us a failure in terms of what we could actually afford, we lived in a rental house, we had to go down to one car, but we had a ball because we had our kids, we traveled, we moved to Oregon and spent 2 years developing this idea of creating health and well-being and, you know, the rest of that is history.

And that journey continues now and even though I was less successful, I was very fulfilled because I was dialed into what was important to me and important to our family. So that kind of moved on, and now, over the last 20 years, I sit in that thriving and I would say that yeah, I have the success from the standpoint of the things extrinsically that allowed me to have a great life and that’s kind of why last week we shifted, and thank you guys for understanding, last week I went out and I went sailing and took my younger daughter, and had a week out in the ocean.

I had a wonderful time bonding with her and then last night we were having a discussion, something was going on in her clinic where she works, and there’s just that bonding of feeling, that closeness. My other daughter is coming in this weekend from Europe and we’ll spend that time together. And so that thriving, and I know you understand that, is when you have the resources so you’re not struggling, and you can actually enjoy your time together.

But really what I want to focus on today, you know, when I ask, where does our happiness come from? It really comes from our psyches. It’s from our soul, and soul, basically, psyche in Greek means soul. And so what do I mean by soul? Well, soul is a metaphor for the organic wisdom of that natural being that we are, you know, inside of us we have a sense of instinctually and it’s the purposeful expression of us as an organism. You know, we, unlike any other species out there, have the ability to reflect on ourselves, to look at ourselves, to be conscious, to be aware of ourselves. And whether that’s in integrity or not, is really important.

So, we’re gonna spend 10 min just kind of going over the exploration of self, which is your mental health. And unfortunately, the grades we’re getting now in mental health are not good by the ICD codes set up by the government and if we explore, 50% of people have mental health issues, and it could be higher than that, 25% of women under 40 are on SSRIs, drugs that are used to help them with their mode because they’re feeling a sense of loneliness or just not feeling completely connected, and I find that very ironic because if you think about it, we’re in the most connected time technologically, ever. We can communicate with people all over but the human factor, that factor of interaction, many people feel the sense that they’re being left behind. The AI and all this technological advancement and they’re feeling lonely.

So I think it’s really important to explore that because it’s vital to the quality of our life and it’s essential to take steps to maximize. It’s not gonna happen by itself. It’s something we must do. And though I’m not a psychotherapist, and this is not psychotherapy, there’s things that we can do. Just like we can go to the gym and work on our muscles, we can go to the mental gym and work on ourselves.

And it’s important. Because our ego, which is the personal mind, that’s been set up since we were really, really little to help protect us, and if you think about the ego, you know, as a way of thinking of it, you get in the shower in the morning, and you turn the water on in the shower and you’ll adjust the water temperature, either hotter or colder, so it feels comfortable and you don’t burn yourself or freeze yourself, and that’s kind of how we should think about the ego. Ego in that case is doing something to help us, right?

It’s helping us regulate and making sure we’re in the comfort area and protecting us. But you know, during the day, most of the time we’re not conscious of that. Throughout the day, the ego is literally assigned a responsibility that is impossible for it to manage. It’s to make everyone like me and make my life just as I want it. In other words, like when we’re little kids and we watch Cinderella or Prince Charming, about how the world should be that utopic world, and unfortunately the world isn’t like that. And if we’re wanting the world to be a certain way, we’re gonna be miserable most of our lives.

So it’s important to understand the difference between what happens inside and what happens outside. So I like to call it alignment, by alignment I mean that we’re integral, we’re whole, our authentic self. So if you’re thriving, you’re going to experience a crystal-clear vision. Feeling power to create the life the way you intend and see life as full of opportunities aligned with your psyche. You’ll be working enthusiastically towards your goals and dreams, doing what you love and feeling grateful for your life and for yourself. Now that’s the sweet spot. That’s the area we want. We probably ask yourself, well, how much of that am I actually experiencing in my life?

Many of us are misaligned. And on the other hand, if it’s being compromised and you’re misaligned with your psyche, you may feel knocked back by life challenges, rather than “the obstacle is the way,” which we talk about, you may find that these obstacles are knocking you down rather than challenging you to be better and to learn and grow. So you feel scattered, uninspired, and more volatile in your emotion. So that is when our psyche, our being, our authentic self, is not congruent with what we’re doing day in and day out.

So the question really comes down to if you decided that you want to be happy. And I’m not saying that happiness is the only emotion we have. You know, there’s sadness. If we watch a sad movie, that’s why we watch a sad movie or if we want to get scared we go on a roller coaster. So there’s other emotions, and feeling our emotions all the way through is really critical. But in general, if we’re fulfilled, if our psyche is… what we’re doing, our life is full of meaning, and when we’re growing up, in the beginning our ego’s kind of helping us move forward and be successful and driving us, but, you know, once we get to the point in our lives where we have those things and we’re moving forward, what else is there? And what really brings the human being, if you look in terms of well-being, usually it’s our vocation or what we’re doing. In other words, what are we doing that’s allowing us to feel fulfilled? So the question is, have you decided you want to be happy?

Because if you make that choice, your path for life becomes clear. So true freedom only comes when you decide you don’t want to suffer anymore.

And you’ve heard me say this many times, but life events are going to happen. You know, I’ve had some, if you follow my work, you know that in my own life I’ve had some tragic events happen, but basically, and they certainly, you know, you’re sad about them, and you have to adjust to those, but they don’t define you. They don’t limit you. Your life experiences aren’t who you are and suffering is optional. You know, pain will happen. There are things that are going to happen in your life. You’re going to lose loved ones. We’re gonna have events happen that you have to deal with, but it’s dealing with the event, taking care of it, and then moving on. Being resilient, building that emotional agility, that flexibility, what we call psychological flexibility, that allows you to move on, so that when events happen your response to them will determine the outcome and the outcome will allow you to continue to move forward. So suffering is optional. So we have to decide to enjoy your life and remove fear, inner pain, and stress. So all those things are your ego trying to adjust to make the world a certain way.

You just have to mean it when you choose to be happy. No matter what happens. So no matter whether something good or bad happens, you have to decide that, you know what? Being right isn’t key here. The more important thing is to be fulfilled in my relationships. So a good example of that is if you’re having an argument with somebody. Someone you love and you care about. Could be your family member, it could be someone that’s a friend, and all of a sudden your ego takes over and you want to be right on this to the point where you actually become ruthless, or, you know, or not nice. And the question is, do I want to leave this relational conversation closer to the person I’m talking to or is it more important for me to be right, then actually listen from another point of view? Because, you know, one of the things we use in our training is, what if the exact opposite was true? You know? And that’s a nice way to reflect, because we take everything that happens in life and we interpret it through our lens. Through our perception filters, and then we determine what it means and what it doesn’t mean.

And there are stories and our stories are mostly made up. They’re not actually accurate. You know, Jim Dethmer, a dear colleague, talks about video is the reality. Anything else that you interpret is made up. So you can make a decision to stay happy. You can be open to life so that when things happen, you’re open, curious, and you want to grow versus being closed. So that’s what we call unconditional happiness. It can be the days that are going well and the days that don’t go so well, we can decide to be happy, to be open, to be curious, and learn and grow. And when we’re giving meaning to those things— and, you know, I talk about Viktor Frankl, who was in the concentration camp, the Austrian psychiatrist, they took everything from him. They killed his family. They took his manuscript away. They basically, he was down to skin and bones, but they couldn’t take his meaning and purpose away.

And what he realized while he was there for those that maintained that, whether it was, you know, for him it was doing his manuscript on this work. For others it was getting free to be back for their family, or something that was important. Once the meaning and purpose goes, the psyche lost its way, those poor people in the concentration camp, they died within a couple of weeks.

But when you make the decision that you’re not gonna allow that to happen, whether things are going poorly or well, you’re gonna interpret it in a way that you’re curious and understand that we take many, many things way too seriously. Things that are pretty infantile. So you know, I love this quote, Jimmy Buffett wrote an album, one of my favorites, you know, as a sailor, I love this stuff and I actually went down, last fall, to Key West after he passed away and the whole recording studio there in Key West, there were tens of thousands of little mementos and things, people thanking him for just giving that feeling of escapism that, you know, that he did.

He created that, you know, going to the Caribbean and joining the sun and relaxing in beautiful water and he allowed people to escape from the reality of their life. And he wrote an album called Always Take the Weather and actually had a couple of songs, “Breathe In. Breathe Out”, which were tributes to the Hurricane Katrina. But basically, you always take the weather, you know, what I know is when we’re sailing, whether the weather is black calm or blowing like crazy, the weather becomes something that stimulates you as a sailor and you get excited about it, in all the different conditions, and it provides a different setting, and you assume, you basically just accept, “the external world is gonna happen. It’s how I respond, how I change my sails— that’s what makes the difference.” That’s kind of the way I like to look at life. And I think it’s important for us, that we totally have the choice to decide to be happy versus being right.

So when you’re happy, you know it. It happens to us. When we see a glorious sunset or we’re watching the birth, you know, Chris Pettit, who does all the work behind the scenes here, I was talking about what makes him feel happy and he, looking down at his young son and said, that makes me feel happy. And so, you know, your heart feels open. You feel the energy rush in. You feel this sense of closeness, connection. We’ve all experienced it and that’s the feeling of what I’m talking about when I say fulfilled and not letting stress get in the way, not letting the other things that can have us suffer. That causes cognitive emotive loops.

Unhappy: your heart feels closed and energy can’t come up, and we know that, I mean, I’ve used example many times, but you’re at work and you’re just finishing a project, and it’s all going really well, and someone walks by and you say, “Hi,” to them and they don’t say anything. All of a sudden, like that [Dr. A snaps his fingers,] you go “Whoa. What’s wrong? What’s going on with them?” And they probably, if you really went down the hall and asked them, they probably would say, “Oh. I didn’t hear you. I was preoccupied. I didn’t hear you.” Because we’re all preoccupied and distracted. But in the meantime, this joy that you were feeling of this project in the creative process, if you let your ego get in the way, it’ll say, oh, they’re mad at me, they’re upset with me, how dare them and you might even go down the hall and attack them.

That’s unhappy. That’s when you feel closed inside. That’s when you’re pushing down this energy and you’re not allowing it to naturally flow and I think that’s really important. So when you feel happy, a great way to sense that, like I feel very fulfilled and joyful just doing this with you guys because I love to help people and if we can open up, you know, the first part is awakening. Most people are sleepwalking through life and they don’t realize that their thoughts, their feelings, and all the things outside, none of that stuff is you. They don’t define you. Your experiences don’t define you. You are the consciousness. You are the psyche as a meaningful organism that basically has the opportunity to be in control and that is an inside job.

So you decide whether you’re happy, and you can see that, where we could be at a concert and someone loves the song, someone hates the song. You know, we like different types of music, and that’s going to be different from each and every one of us, and it’s a response to all the experiences you’ve had and those experiences aren’t either good or bad. They’re just experiences and what we need to realize is that you’re not broken. You are literally just responding to past training and that training served you at one time when you were little, but probably doesn’t serve you now. So it’s time to update that.

[00:20:20] And so when you’re feeling happy, feel that experience and sense that experience. So you can practice that and actually, how does that feel inside? When my psyche and my behaviors, my relationships are all moving and they’re in flow. What does that feel like? And you can reproduce that.

Be aware, notice when your heart starts to close. Rather than getting upset, right? When you have that event happens and you say something to someone and they didn’t respond, basically, as soon as you start feeling that “icky sauce,” you know, relax and decide this isn’t something you want to trade your happiness for. That person probably— you don’t know. First of all, if you withhold, withdraw, and then you’re gonna project onto them that, “Oh, they’re mad at me for some reason,” and actually what we find is that projection usually is something inside of us. So be curious and notice when you start to close, and practice not closing.

It’s as simple as that. Practice not closing. So rather than shift, stay open, and be willing to listen and be curious. So open, curious, and want to grow, and learn from every experience. It’s so important. And stress is a great time because you can look at stress— stress is gonna happen because events are gonna happen. We live in a stressful world with a lot of stuff going on, but rather than getting stressed out by it and get into that cognitive emotive loop, and those feelings of anger, or whatever the feeling is, fear, anxiety, instead, take some deep breaths and just relax and observe why you’re responding this way, you know, and start looking at, “Okay, what is this triggering inside of me?” Because basically there are things in life that you are trying to push away from that you don’t want anything to do with and much of it happened when you were younger and it’s not that you’re wrong. It’s just that it’s not serving you in a useful way. You know, when we grow up— so we wake up, and then we grow up. It’s not just that we’re now a big person, but we also have to start taking accountability and responsibility for how we’re responding to the outside world. How are we out there? How are we with our kids? With our friends? With our family? With our inner job environment? How are we responding and what are we actually accountable for? And there’s other things you’re trying to pull towards you, things that you want, you covet. So you either resist certain things because of a bad experience or something, the energy inside you, or you cling to things, you’re trying to pull them towards you because they made you feel good.

So it may have been a vacation five years ago you went on and you want to go back to that place and experience the same joy you felt when you were there. Well, it’s not going to happen because you’re in a different place in life and it’s not the place, the place can provide part of it, but you’re in a different place. You’re the one that decides your fulfillment and your happiness. So, I hope this is starting to make sense. So, this is the foundation of stress and anxiety. Is it worth it? Is it worth it to get so agitated with that person that’s driving 10 miles below a speed limit? Is it worth it to get upset because your kids left dirty dishes in the sink? Is it worth it to start getting stressed out about something happening on the other side of the world?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be aware of those things, but like the serenity prayer, there’s so many things we can either realize that we have little or no control over, because we are right here where we are. You’re sitting in front of your computer or on your phone and you have a very little environment. There are 8 billion people on the face of this planet. They’re all having a different experience. And the question is, is my experience any more important than any other experience and can I now change my macro environment or even my micro environment? We have so little control over— but what we have to complete control over is inside.

So what in essence I’m saying is that the earth was formed 4.5 billion years ago, we’re here for hopefully, you know, especially if you live the Habits of Health, around 100 years or so, which is just a blip of time. So is it worth it to live our life full of stress? You know, and I like to think of it as honoring the flow of life. We’re here for a very short time. We should enjoy this experience. We can make the decision in just about any circumstances to choose happiness, and fulfillment, and meaning, and purpose over getting upset, needing to be right, needing to have the last word, and it’s all the matter of building in, which you’ve seen me use the slide, as I like it, because it kind of says everything, I want to have the internal stability to be able to handle whatever the external environment brings and be able to respond relationally because, basically, you spend time with yourself and we need to be kinder to ourselves and realize that we choose our happiness and happiness can be just sitting here talking to you guys through a computer. You know, I love this fulfillment— and the externally equilibrium so that when events do happen we always ask you what happened? What’s missing? What’s next? That’s taking that emotional need that your ego needs to be right and now saying, “Hey, here are the facts. What can we do so that this doesn’t happen again?”

So, hopefully that’s helpful and now we’ll open it up, for Q&A. So with that, let me take it off of the presentation and we will— we’re not off yet. Let me get off. End show. Here we go. Okay, Rach, do we have a [crosstalk 00:26:20].

Rachel: Yes we do. We have Mary up first and she’s already ready.

Dr. A: Okay.

Mary: Hi, Dr. A.

Dr. A: Hi. How are you?

Mary: I am so good. It’s good to see you today. I have to say, I was at the tail end of last time and it’s a good thing I was postponed because I probably would have cried through the whole thing! My question though, around some recent kind of— I was triggered. I’m dealing with my 93 and 96 year old aging parents, and then had a friend group thing happen, and what I realized through all the emotions, the stuff that came up, is maybe I haven’t released it all and gotten through some layers of trauma. Are there more tools? Are there more things other than being in awareness? And taking the time for ourselves to do that because I do spend most of my time happy, but man these disruptions come and it kind of rocked my world for a few days.

Dr. A: Yeah. Yes, so no, and I totally get that and I want you to start maybe, you know, I’ve actually started evolving how I, rather than saying store trauma, it’s just stored energy. It’s an experience. It’s not, there’s nothing wrong with you. That’s the first thing. 

Mary: Right.

Dr. A: It’s not that you’re a bad person or a good person. It’s energy packets. [crosstalk 00:27:44] when we were younger, it usually started when we were younger, and so we didn’t have the skill set. You know, at five years of age, we really haven’t developed our prefrontal cortex. Okay. So when something happens, we experience it emotionally and so we do adaptive mechanisms to help service, and that’s just— it works for you, and as we get older and now we’re now a big person, we have those things and they trigger us because we haven’t fully felt those feelings. So it’s just really more, I’d love to— and actually as I evolve how I talk about it, it’s really just stored energy, and so you have these things. And what we’re talking about when you’re closed like that, when it’s stored, and it happened to be a negative experience at the time, you repress releasing it, and so it’s going to have to come back up, and so as it bubbles up, just don’t look at it as— don’t judge yourself. Don’t think, I’m wrong. Don’t think, oh, I’m diseased, because you’re not diseased. It’s not disease, it’s just you’re not at ease because the stuff no longer serves you. And what’s nice is, as you take on and become awaken to this, and you start working on yourself, is you’re basically putting yourself in position to allow all those special things to be restructured so they serve you.

So there’s things that happen in your past that are stored energy that we can literally allow it to bubble up. Feel those feelings, but you’re right, when it comes up, it’s gonna, you’re gonna suffer. You’re gonna suffer through it, but you only have to suffer once, right? Or if it’s something that’s repetitive and maybe more than once, but each time it becomes easier for you. So, I’d rather have you thinking of dabbling? Does that make sense?

Mary: No, I love that. Yeah, I mean, it’s been an epic four journey for me since just prior to COVID. But when it happened in that way, I just knew I was like, you know, I just really wanna let go. And I guess from a human point of view, we maybe can’t, you know, be done with it once and for all, I guess is what I’m saying, but then just allowing if it comes up, processing through whatever is there.

Dr. A: Well, yeah, but you’re aware of that now. You are processed. You are, again, it’s not— you don’t get a gold star for this. Okay? It’s not that, oh, I gotta get— you get better at it, but experience— and, you know, you don’t start with the biggest stuff. You start with the smaller stuff. That’s why I always use the analogy because we’ve all experienced being behind someone in a car, and you start with the small stuff and you, you’re actually training yourself so that you’re not allowing your personal mind to take over and totally sabotage your day, right? That’s really what this is. This is about being at the point where you’re not ruminating, right? Ruminating. I like the word ruminate because ruminate means I’m taking something that’s happening and now I’m fixating on it and I’m staying there and I’m creating this cognitive emotive loop.

[00:30:47] So if something happens with your family, just basically experience it. Like, you know, I know my relationship with my mom. My mom hasn’t studied any of this, but our relationship is a thousand percent better than it was ten years ago, and most of this because I’ve done the work. I no longer let any of that stuff trigger me and it’s actually not even there anymore. In fact, [unintelligible 00:31:11] my mom’s 90 years old. I don’t know how long I have, but I went up, we went out to dinner, I took her over to meet with one of the business things I’m doing. I would have never done that. I would have been, put her to the side, I don’t want to— now, I want experience. I want her to know my life. I want her to know, you know, she’s very proud and that she doesn’t have anything but joy in our relationship and I have complete control over that. You have complete control over how your family [unintelligible 00:31:43]. And bottom line is, as you grow, it just happens naturally, and then what happens is you will affect it, because if you’re both up here going like this and you stop that, see? There’s nowhere, there’s nothing for them to push against. [Dr. A gestures with his hands]. So the bottom line is again, events are gonna happen. Your response to them will determine the outcome and that stuff will become more and more— you’ll start laughing at a lot of that stuff that used to bother you. Does that make sense? 

Mary: I’ve come a long, long way, yeah.

Dr. A: Yeah, and remember, suffering is optional. You don’t need to suffer, and even people that are great advocates, like Mother Teresa, you know, people that did— even though they were— their psyche, right? Was so aligned with their purpose and their meaning that they didn’t even sence suffering, right? That even though physically they were in an environment where they suffered. So, it’s really important to get aligned with yourself and that happens when you’re your authentic self and you’re no longer letting someone else determine what makes you happy, what creates fulfillment for you. That’s a beautiful thing, because as you become more aligned with yourself and that’s going to be different than what your family or your past experience gave you.

That’s going to be something that if you really ask you’ll start sensing when you’re out of alignment. You know, one of the things that I like to work on is integrity, which means you are everything you say, your agreements, your feelings, you feel them all the way through and then you can actually be aligned with yourself. That’s why I showed alignment versus disalignment. Basically, when you’re aligned with your psyche, with who you are, then it’s a beautiful thing and you will find more and more joy in your life, and it doesn’t require— see, that’s why, where does your happiness come from? The real answer to that question is, it doesn’t come from anything outside of you. 

Mary: Yeah.

Dr. A: It doesn’t come from a new car because a new car tarnishes. You know, it’s funny because I have a small little grill that I used, a Weber grill, it has a can, a propane can, smaller, and I hadn’t been here for a while because I’ve been traveling around the country and I came out and I was cooking last night and it ran out of gas. It’s only that big and I unscrewed it and, you know, it’s a temporary thing because then you get another one, but it was all rusted from the salt here, because I live on the ocean, and I looked at it and said, you know, everything outside of you is like that. It’s gonna to tarnish over time. If you’re looking for external things to make you happy. It’s not gonna happen.

Those are band-aids. The work comes from within and you’re doing that work. And like you said, you’ve come a long way. So be really joyful for that. Be happy that you’re on a path where everything in your life, you have internal control— not the external things, you can’t determine whether a meteor is going to fall on the planet, but you certainly have control how you respond to that.

Mary: Yeah, for sure. Thank you so much, Dr. A.

Dr. A: You’re so welcome.

Mary: I appreciate it.

Dr. A: You’re so welcome. Yeah, my pleasure. Alright, Rach, who have we got?

Rachel: Alright, next up we have Terri. Terri, can you come on camera? Oh, there you are.

Terri: Here we are! Actually, it’s Terri and Gary Sprouse.

Gary: Hi! how are you doing?

Dr. A: Good. I’m great. How are you guys? You look very official back there with all your filing cabinets and your fax machine.

Gary: We’re retired now [crosstalk 00:35:10]. We’re in a happy place.

Dr. A: You don’t need that fax machine anymore, do you?

Mary: Yeah. We still have a lease on it for another year! [everyone laughs].

Dr. A: I love it. So how can I help you guys today?

Gary: So the question was, so I’ve written this book called Highway Your Happy Place, which I think you got a copy when you were on your cruise, and what I talk about is in your happy place, there’s five or six components to being in a happy place, but one of them is having contentment and having pleasure, and the other thing that I found was anticipating pleasure. So if I go to a restaurant, like, you know, the restaurants for an hour or two, and I have a great time, but thinking about going to the restaurant can go on for a month or two or three, and so what I found is it comes out to like anticipating you’re having pleasure or hoping something good is coming, and I think that’s just as important, but one of the questions comes up then is, how do you, I think you said this earlier, which is like, how you perceive things has a big, like somebody can be in a poor situation still enjoy themselves and some can be in a really great situation and not in enjoy themselves. How would you adjust your perception to make to make that change?

Dr. A: Yeah, you’re talking about framing. Everything can be reframed. It’s all about reframing. Any perspective, and I’ll use an example, I mean, I can’t think of a more horrific environment than Victor Franklin was in, right? I mean [crosstalk 00:36:27].

Gary: Yeah, I read that book. It’s pretty horrendous.

Dr. A: Yeah, and so he reframed his life. He reframed his existence and it’s the most extreme example and fortunately for most of us, we don’t have to go through that, but basically, anything can be looked at as a growth opportunity and that’s why being open, curious, and want to grow, even when something is happening, like during the last week when I was in the ocean, there was a couple of things that occurred, that we’re actually negative things that happened, and rather than, well, I adjusted to them, I made the change, and then got really curious about why it happened and actually got inquisitive. You know, kids are in a state of wonder, right? And in that state of wonder. I mean, we check everything when we’re little, we check everything. It’s not like we’re even, we just want, we’re curious about the world and we lose that as adults. We want the world to be programmed to be exact, to be controlled, and we look for control. You know, control, security, and approval. Are things that we seek because we don’t think we have them and the reality is we have more than enough of all of them.

So, I think what you’re saying, what I like is, we reframe things and we always have the opportunity to reframe it no matter what happens. So let me just spend a moment on pleasure versus satisfaction, because I find those two very, very different pieces. Pleasure is a momentary experience. So in other words, why the nutritionally polluted world was having such a dramatic effect is because the food technologists have actually learned how— I use Ruffles, because they’ve done a brilliant job with the corrugation of the ruffle, the salt, the sugar, they create the perfect crunch. The perfect salt. The perfect sugar, and so while you’re eating one, you feel pleasure. As soon as you stop eating, the pleasure goes away.

Satisfaction is— so let’s take something that would create satisfaction. So you go on a mile run or get on your Peloton bike, it doesn’t matter what it is, your satisfaction lasts beyond the actual event of doing that, right? Because in satisfaction, what happens is, we feel the endorphins while we’re doing it, but afterwards we just helped our cardiovascular system. We clear our brain. We’ve lowered the amyloids and the things inside the brain so that the brain is functioning, there’s better blood flow to it, and we may have a better mental clarity for 12 hours. So if we if we kind of judge our life and what are the things that produce satisfaction versus pleasure because if night, if you’re looking at night for something to offload the busy day you had, and you’re drinking, you know, two martinis or you’re having a bowl of Häagen-Dazs, you eat the whole container, and that’s why, by the way, that’s why they make bigger and bigger and bigger sizes is because the person is only really having the pleasure while they’re experiencing it. If that makes sense.

[00:39:40] So, the whole idea is, those are all temporary things. Satisfaction comes— just like we’re talking about whether it’s raising a child, you know, I had an amazing ski adventure with my younger daughter, three, four, I guess it was about a month ago, and those are lasting experiences. In fact, something happened in her clinic yesterday and she called me last night and she was dealing with something she did integrity based— but what happened, and she said, “Thanks, Dad. For teaching me that.” Right? And that’s satisfaction, right? I’m not pleasurable that she made a mistake, but she responded to it because she’s now trained, and that’s our responsibility as parents. It’s not to be, you know, the helicopter parents being friends that kind of came over the last 20 years is a mistake because our job is not to be their friend. Our job is to prepare them for a crazy world that’s, I mean, imagine how much the world’s changed, right? [crosstalk 00:40:41].

I mean the the world’s changed so much that my role is, so that when I’m gone, is that she can thrive, and in a world that we have no clue what that would— I mean if you look over the last 40, 50 years, you can’t even imagine when I’ll get like a social media blast from 10 years ago and then you’ll see or I remember back when I was in critical care practice, my phone was a Motorola, it was that big [Dr. A estimates the size with his hands].The big antenna, and I was like, “Oh, my god. This technology is so advanced! I can actually not have to be— because as a critical care— that I always had to be by a phone!

Terri and Gary: Yes!

Dr. A: I couldn’t go out, you know, in the countryside because I had to be by the phone when I had sick people. This was like a wonderful freedom. And now, you know, you look at the evolution, and it’s come so far. So I think, if that makes sense, I think our experiences are to align what really, what we value, our highest values, our meaning and our purpose, allow us to conduct the second part of our life in a way that brings congruency. Because it’s not gonna happen from the outside world. If that makes sense.

Terri: No. No.

Gary: One thing that I think about, what Victor Frankel said was, people ask him, “Well, how did you do that? What, what great skill did you have?” And he goes, “I didn’t have any great skill. I was just a regular human being. Anybody can do what I did.” And it’s like, I think that’s an important lesson for us to learn.

Dr. A: It is. We’re all human. We’re all more similar than we are different, and we all- that’s why I do this work is because everybody has the opportunity, this is not something that only a world-class athlete can do. This is something we all can access, have access to, we can all awaken, and we can all basically evolve, grow up and show up in a very different way. So, thank you guys. I really appreciate you.

Terri: Thank you.

Dr. A: Okay.

Rachel: Alright, next up we have Mary. Another Mary.

Dr. A: Mary, Mary.

Mary: The name today. How are you?

Dr. A: It’s a good name! There’s Something About Mary is one of my favorite movies.

Mary: I agree, it’s a classic. It’s a classic name. A classic movie.

Dr. A: There you go.

Mary: Alright, Dr. A. My question is about SSRs, I think is what they’re called. I’ve heard you just, you know, talk about them a couple of times, like in the Momentum Tour and things like that. So my question is, you know, what advice would you have for someone, a woman who has been on SSRs for a large part of her life and, you know, has been since childhood, clinically depressed or anxious, has had these diagnoses, and has been led to the SSRs through certain life events and things and What device would you have for that person who wants to come off or feels like, I want to be free from that. You know, the shame and the guilt, you know, all the fear that’s involved with that. What would you say to someone? I just. Yeah.

Dr. A: So, you know, when I reflected and I talked about them, they’re used to treat symptoms. First of all, I’m not a psychotherapist and I don’t give psychotherapeutic advice. I’m simply— position that is very curious on studying our mind and our feelings and how we can adapt to a world with understanding by becoming awake and aware, and then self-regulating and self-managing. So, they’re treating symptoms. Just like, I mean you know that is a proponent in creating, over the last 20 years, the Habits of Health Transformational System. Our body has an inherent capacity to heal itself. So, you know, if we reach a healthy weight, we exercise, even if we have genetic propensity to having high cholesterol, we can modify those things and live a relatively normal life. I mean, obviously there’s genetic, really wild variance, but I’m talking about for the majority of the population, and that’s what we’re talking about.

I mean, someone that has severe psychological things needs to be cared for by a psychotherapist, and so I want to make sure we’re clear that I’m not advocating everybody comes off them. What I am saying is that we get put on them because we’re looking to somehow a blame of symptom and have that make us okay. And it doesn’t make us okay. Now there are people who have chemical disorders and it’s significant. You know, which require medications. Medications are actually helpful, but just like with the, you know, with the attention deficit, the majority of people can help manage themselves and become better. So, I’m saying all that is a disclaimer because I don’t know, you know, the individual [unintelligible 00:45:58], but I will say by becoming— suffering, judgment, shaming, those are all based on what were protective mechanisms, usually adapted in our childhood, and it’s not that they’re wrong or right, again, going back to the first Mary, it’s not— we shouldn’t be beating ourselves up for it. It just, that’s our life experience. What we’re talking about here is that doesn’t have to be your life experience for the rest of your life. That’s your life experience to this point. We all have the opportunity, and I like what Gary just said is, we all have the opportunity to work on these things.

So working on, and this is a great one, on your happiness, is that when you feel that you’re happy, flourish with that, adapt to that, hold on to that, and feel that feeling, and then notice when something starts to creep in. Usually, it’s your ego somehow shaming you, judging you, and your— it’s an experience that you had when you were little that was cast on you before you were able to handle it. So, you know, you start small, Mary. I mean, it’s not something that, overnight, is going to go away, but you can work on it and you could find that if you’re really aware, and you kind of put your personal mind to the side and you start feeling that. Just be aware of that emotion. Just being. You don’t even have to adjust to it. Just be aware and label it.

You know, there’s only five major emotions, right? And it’s one of those five, and if it’s one of those five, identify which one it is, and just do that for a couple of weeks, right? And just sense it, feel it, and let it go. It’s when we cling onto it, it’s when we ruminate. It’s when we create those cognitive emotive loops that starts to build in, and then we start beating ourselves up, and the other part is be kind. One of the things I talk about is be kind to yourself, you know, you can basically do meditation and just sit, and be kind to your soul. I mean you can clearly— I can sense and feel from you, you want to grow, you want to learn, you want to move beyond it, and it’s not like you’re going to go cold turkey and go off them, but you can start to be in command of your life and once you— the things that really matter to you, you’re aligned with those things, then the joy starts coming and you’ll start really sensing and celebrating that, and that’s where it all comes from.

It comes from us saying, you know what? I made— I am not my— and here’s the big one. This is the big message and clearly, until you reach this point, you’re going to struggle and suffer and that is, you are not your thoughts. You’re not your feelings and you certainly aren’t the desk in your room, but your thoughts are basically made up by your ego, by your personal mind to alter reality so it fits your premise of who you are. So, you know, our self— again, going back to the shower, in that circumstance, if you get in the shower and the shower is too hot and you want to turn it down, that is a normal— using your personal mind to adjust so you protect yourself. The rest of the time, your ego is doing that mostly on an unconscious basis.

You’re only aware a few times a day of what your ego is doing to adjust to you. Most of the time, you’re not aware. It’s becoming aware. It’s when those senses, when you start feeling things are going well, you start to sense that, right? You’re closed— and that’s why I like to use, “closing.” You’ll feel that energy all of a sudden change, and what you want to do is become a scientist, and your own self-exploration of that. Why am I feeling that? And then start to basically sense, feel that, and know that, it’s not that I’m wrong, that I’m bad, that I don’t like myself, it’s simply that I have these experiences and stored things inside of me from the past and I’m not trying to fix them. I just don’t want them to have an impact on me anymore, so I want to be able to become aware of them, so I can now let them go. And yeah, they’re gonna bother you on the way up, because that’s why you got— but when you were little you didn’t have the skill sets here to deal with them, right? So you just repress them, right?

[00:50:37] We’re told when we’re little we’re stupid and, you know, our parents didn’t know any better, and so you thought, oh my God. I’m stupid, and so for the rest of your life if that’s what you sensed about yourself and you’re trying to show that you’re not, I mean you can win the National Society. You can even win the Nobel Prize. If you think you’re stupid, you’re still stupid, and none of that stuff matters. Does that make sense? And that’s the same with everything. If you’re shaming yourself or judging yourself or beating yourself up, those are just simply mechanisms that one time might have served you and no longer serve you, and it’s just time to become aware of them, and let them start bubbling up and over time you’ll start laughing. You literally— there was a book, Turning Pro, by Steve Pressfield and he said in his growth that one of the things that he noticed was he just started laughing because things that used to upset him like, you know, being in the room and having a discussion and someone is saying something that you thought made you look stupid, right? And actually, they weren’t even trying to do that.

They were just coming from their own world, and not taking it personally, now you just laugh at those things and not let them affect you, because, you know what? We are only here for a short period of time and we spend way too much time sweating the small stuff, and as we said a couple of decades ago, it’s all small stuff. Basically, we should be enjoying every day, and that, as you become more in line, and you’re also, you know, one of the things that I love is a full body, yes. Stop saying yes to stuff unless you really feel it in your head, in your heart, and in your gut, because what we do is we want approval, we want acceptance, around the people we’re around, and so we say stuff that we don’t really want to do, and then we beat ourselves up for it! And just in the beginning, just say, “no.” Say, “no,” a lot more and say, “yes,” to the things that align themselves with your soul with what means stuff to you. Does that make sense?

Mary: Oh, 100%, and I’ve come a long way with my lifestyle changes, and when you said that about the cold turkey, like not quitting cold turkey, that’s kind of my style like I used to be a smoker and I quit cold turkey twice, but ultimately I that was like, I don’t know, 15 years ago or something. So yeah, this is like such a personal topic. So yeah, it is a mind thing, you know, like to detach from that, that has become a norm, but it’s also not something that I feel like is a part of who I am anymore, so there’s definitely just a weird…

Dr. A: Yeah, so let’s go back to the smoking since now that’s in the past. So you were a smoker. Until you decide you’re not a smoker, until your identity changes, until your being, who you are changes, you’re still a smoker. And yeah, cutting, stopping cold turkey, physiologically, you go through 3 weeks of hell, right? And then, but if you haven’t decided you’re a non-smoker, then you’re still a smoker, and it’s the same thing— you know, I’ll take a big one that affects a lot of people is, if you’re in a spouse relationship and you get divorced, as long as that person still has an effect on you, like you can’t go to a party, you’re not divorced from them. You’re still married to them. You’re still, in your mind, your identity has identified, I am “such and such’s” wife. I might be the ex-wife, but I’m still the ex-wife. You’re not. You’re not your experiences.

That is so critical. That’s why when I say, you’re not your feelings, they are not who you are. You’re identity is simply the evolution of what matters to you. What’s important. What primarily is important to you, but you are none of those things. You are the consciousness, the awareness of those things, and the more we understand that, the more we can start changing things like that. It doesn’t take a lot— I had someone say, well, I’ve been like that— it took me 50 years to get there, and I said, it doesn’t take you 50 more years to undo it. Once you become aware you start working, there’s a point where you just disregard and you look over there and say, I’m putting my ego over here on the side. I’m no longer a smoker. You’re no longer a smoker. I’m no longer married to that person. I’m no longer beating myself up. I’m in joy. I basically, I’m adding value to the world. I’m connected spiritually. I’m not struggling with those things. Those are all the evolution where you’re not letting your personal mind get in the way and basically, take over and run your life.

Does that make sense?

Mary: Yes. Absolutely.

Dr. A: Yeah, you’re on your way. You’re on your way. You already have the— that mechanism that you use to become a non-smoker is the evolution of your identity, of your psyche, who you are in relation to, in the wisdom, that’s now the sagacity. The sagacity, you know, means wisdom that you’re now developing as we grow, and it’s a maturation process, and it’s not just— it doesn’t just involve chronologically, age. It also involves your willingness to work on it. You can— you don’t need to be in your 60’s, 70’s, 80’s to have sagacity. You can make a decision that I’m going to be open, curious, and want to grow, just like I was talking about pleasure versus satisfaction.

Once you understand the difference in how your mind works and how your body works, then you become the master controller of that, right? You’re in control of your inside world. No one else is in control. No one, honestly, you know, on the day we die, if it’s raining, 50% of people aren’t coming to your funeral. So stop worrying about what other people think and start building the life— and I’m not talking about narcissism. I’m talking about being aligned with your meaning and purpose. You know, the evolution of your soul. I mean, I honestly think we’re put on here— in the beginning we find our way, and then basically the latter part of our life it’s about evolving our soul, and being part of something that’s more than just us, right? We’re not the center of the universe. We are basically connected to 8 billion other people in some way sort of being, and the more we get beyond, the more joy— and that was the subject today— the more happiness we have is when we feel connected to something bigger than us, when we’re not the center of the universe anymore.

Mary: Okay. I have a piggy back question.

Dr. A: Go for it!

Mary: Just real quick. So, and this is probably what we call future tripping. So when, okay, let’s say in a perfect world, you know, come off the SSR— whatever they’re called, SSRI’s, something happens in the future and I’m led to go back to the medication. That’s a whole other battle. That’s a whole other, like…

Dr. A: You’re responsible for what you put in your body. Okay? Let’s be really clear there. Listen, a physician has 5.1 minutes with you. Okay? A very short period of time. And if you’re undergoing psychotherapy— and listen, again, I’m always going to give to, if you’re working with a psychotherapist you need to listen to what they’re saying. I’m saying this is the growth work you can do on your own.

Mary: Yeah.

Dr. A: This is your growth work. They don’t have time to go in there and do that. You’re the only one that has time, and you’re the only one that’s really motivated. So when you say something happens, just by saying that, you’re flunking right now, okay? [Dr. A and Mary laugh]. Because what you’re saying is an event external to me can mess me up so much I’m gonna have to go back on them, right? And I’m what saying is that if you take command and build a psychological flexibility, no matter what happens— now I’m not seeing some traumatic event— I’m not, I mean, you know, if the psychotherapy can help, it helps our soul. That’s what it’s about. So I’m not, I mean, I’m always going to say work with a psychotherapist always, always. I’m saying, but in your own individual work— it’s kind of like what a coach does, right? You know, a coach works on you when you’re with them but then you work on yourself when you’re not. You know, you work on weight lifting, agility, practicing, you know, if you’re a quarterback, throwing the ball. There’s a lot of stuff you can do on your own, right? And that helps build that psychological— Psychological flexibility is the super power of 2024. It is the thing that allows us to build that resilience.

So like, you know, again, water on a duck’s back, a lot of stuff that would previously affected us, no longer has that effect, and part of that is getting that stored energy that used to trigger us, getting that out, and getting it into the world so that it no longer has that effect on us, and it’s not going to happen from external things, and by the way, the medications, unless they’re affecting some neurotransmitters, basically, are helping with symptoms, they’re not treating the underlying cause, right? So the underlying cause can be part of that energy storage stuff that you need a psychotherapist for, and certainly, that’s where you need to go if you’re having an event occur. But you’re the one that decides on whether you can handle it or not. They don’t decide, right? And that’s only you that knows that. If that makes sense. 

Mary: Yeah, so good. Thank you so much, Dr. A.

Dr. A: Yeah, and that’s you becoming the Dominant Force in your life. I mean, they’re there to help you, and what I would do is have a really honest conversation. If you’re in a situation like that just talk to them and they’ll help you. I mean, it’s kind of like these new weight loss drugs. Someone that has really significant addictive qualities may need to be on them, I’m not anti-drugs. I’m anti-covering up symptoms because that will never allow you to thrive. Does that make sense?

Mary: Yes. I needed that.

Dr. A: You’re the one that can organize your life around what matters most to you, and you can become the Dominant Force, and I’ve been saying that like an echo chamber for years, but I’m absolutely convinced. You have the capabilities to become the Dominant Force in your life and you can actually through neuroplasticity, you can actually change how your brain thinks and acts. Right?

Mary: Awesome.

Dr. A: And underneath the guidance, obviously of the— if you’re using a psychotherapist [unintelligible 01:01:36], they’re the experts in that area— just like, by the way, a traditional physician, if I’m a patient and I come in and I’ve now lost 30 pounds, and I’m exercising, and I’m sleeping better, the physician isn’t going to go, “Oh! Don’t do any of that. I want to put you on more medicines.” Right? They’re going to be happy for you. They have— physicians, we have tools, and many of those tools happen to be, especially in this country, happen to be pharmaceuticals, and there’s a place for them. There’s always a place for them. It’s just that there’s also a huge place for you to become the Dominant Force and take control of your life.

Mary: Thank you. Yeah. I wasn’t talking about me! No, I’m kidding. I’m like.

Dr. A: No. It doesn’t have to be you! [crosstalk 01:02:19]

Dr. A: You be the little bird for that person [Mary and Dr. A laugh with one another]. 

Okay. Alright guys, well listen, we’re out of time. I appreciate it. If you have questions, make sure Rachel has your name, and we’ll make sure we prioritize and have you up first next time. So really, really, good session and looking forward to everyone really working on the idea that you choose to be fulfilled, to be happy, to be congruent with what matters most. Sit down and figure out what you value most, and put your life in position to move forward and bring those things into your life. God bless, and you guys have a great week. Bye!

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