Tuesday, December 7, 2021

The Best Movies and Series to Watch during the Pandemic and The Leftovers

The Leftovers

Call it morbidity, curiosity, or the quest for certainty during volatile and uncertain times but ever since the pandemic hit us over the head, I have been both fascinated and appalled with the world around me while grappling with everything as it unfolds in slow motion and in repeat mode. I was not only interested in the psychological and emotional effects and disturbances that the pandemic has brought upon all our lives, but I wanted to immerse myself in movies and series that would reignite those flames and feelings to better understand and come to terms with them.

With 20/20 pandemic hindsight, I re-watched a handful of thematically linked and relevant movies like Soderbergh’s Contagion (2011), while also watching, for the first time, previous imaginings of the havoc that pandemics could potentially wreak as in the middling and overdone movie Outbreak (1995) by Wolfgang Petersen as well as the seemingly far-fetched but overall spot-on film noir Panic in the Streets (1950) by Elia Kazan.

Of these three movies, the best researched and imagined one is Contagion, and it was quite scary, eerie, and prescient at various times since it was alluding to the influence of the Internet and the presence of anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists. Although I generally liked the film, I was even more impressed the second time around and could not help thinking that the whole situation could have and should have been handled differently and better by all the authorities from the get-go.

I was quite disappointed with Outbreak as it had various interesting bits regarding forced lockdown and confinement but then was constantly driven by the need to turn dramatic events into an average and inane action film. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised by the film noir Panic in the Streets in which a doctor, played by Richard Widmark, was on the hunt for a killer infected with a highly contagious pneumonic plague. The depiction of panic and of time running out to contain the virus and to get everyone vaccinated in time would have not resonated well with audiences back then or even a couple of years back but with what we know now, it is quite shockingly accurate and congruent with our times and current experiences.

The list could go on much longer, but I want to add a few more movies as well. I was curious to watch Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), the second version by Philip Kaufman, and its sense of paranoia and growing infection was well-captured, whereas the focus was more on conspiracy theories, which I found slightly deplorable in this case.

On the contrary, The Happening (2008) by the eminently watchable but equally frustrating filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan would have benefited from a shot of conspiracy theory but instead opted for a nature revenge story. Yet, as I viewed this movie most recently for the first time, as nature appears to be taking revenge on us or is simply reacting to negative karma alongside ignorance and denial that we have been accumulating over the past years and decades, it has gained some esteem in my eyes. Yet there are absolutely no excuses for the atrocious acting and some unfortunate, bad, and inexcusable choices in terms of writing and directing.

Finally, the critically panned Passengers (2016) by Morten Tyldum tended out to be an interesting treat, and despite its flaws, it is seriously underrated and unfairly maligned. People were hung up on and mired and blinded by gender issues and politics and failed to see, understand, or empathize with the vast level of loneliness that the (human) characters must have experienced as they were floating idly through space for the remainder of their lives. But the pandemic with its penchant for lockdowns, breakdowns, and ample supply of downtime has now given a taste of what it is like to be metaphorically an island onto oneself, and, in many cases, this has come with an overall lack of human touch and contact.

Moving on to various series, a few good-to-great series come to mind, including techno-thrillers that deal with potential threats and nightmare scenarios from different levels and situations. The revolutionary, anarchist Mr. Robot started off interesting and had vibrance but then became a convoluted and confusing mess to me, and I lost interest after a while. Black Mirror was great but when we needed it most during the pandemic, it was not forthcoming whatsoever with the excuse that times are weirder than anything they could possibly depict in the show. That may be true but psychologically speaking, it would have been a source of comfort and solace to have these issues addressed in this stunning and well-made series.

Finally, I quite enjoyed the first season of the German biotech thriller Biohackers, and it fits in with the innovative use of genetic technology and the combat against this dreadful virus. I thought it also depicted quite well both the benefits as well as potential threats and drawbacks of this type of technology but then the sudden, unexpected, and implausible shift in the second season undid most of the good parts of the first season and leaves me now with only a mildly enthused flavor in my mouth.

The other series I was curious about was Stephen King’s The Stand and I opted for the original mini-series version of the 70s instead of the more recent remake. It started off very well and had everything going for it in terms of what is currently occurring across the world but then it was too deeply imbued with religious symbolism, which ended up being a turn-off for me. It was not just because of religious themes, which I would have welcomed if it had been done in a more considerate and sensible manner, but in this case, it ended up being only slighter better than Petersen’s mediocre tackling of the virus.

And then, there were The Leftovers, the absolute highlight of pandemic binge-watching and, in my view, one of the best series of all time. In fact, no movie or program has depicted the current turmoil, uncertainly and pure madness as this series has, and it was made a handful of years before any of these events caught us off-guard. Like certain parts and premonitions of The Simpsons that manage to somehow portray the future accurately, which some claim to be the result of either psychic phenomena or due to time travel, but which could simply be the outcome of a creatively charged, sensitive, and perceptive imagination.

The premise is simple but mysterious: On October 14, two percent of the world population inexplicably and haphazardly disappears into thin air. It happens within a blink and apparently without rhyme or reason. The opening minutes are some of the emotionally most harrowing and disturbing moments I have ever seen. This untenable situation creates fear and panic, and the focus is on how a town in New York handles and deals with this unprecedented situation.

But what makes this series so moving and what resonated with me on profound levels was not the mystery itself, which may or may not be left unsolved, but it was all about those who are left behind, the leftovers of the great disappearance. Why were they spared? Was this a type of divine punishment or reward? Was it a case of the great rapture? And is the rapture a reward or rather a form of punishment, or both or neither?

This hypothetical situation gives rise to a number of profound philosophical speculations and ruminations. In times of doubt and crisis, each person reacts differently. Some embrace religion more firmly and believe that it may be God’s hand that is protecting some, lifting others, and letting others down. In the series, a priest tries his best to expose the sins of those who were taken to calm his own guilty conscience of being leftover or left behind.

At the same time, some create their own religion, which is best and most memorably established with the creepy sect of the Guilty Remnants. It is not always clear what they stand for, but they are easily recognized and recognizable by the following characteristics, they are all dressed in white clothing, they never speak as they strictly follow a vow of silence, and they chain smoke. Yes, they smoke one cigarette after another. Why? Who knows?

And yet, they try to convert others. They stage protests and demonstrations, and they are ubiquitous. Their protests are “peaceful” as they block roads, entries, and buildings as well as funerals, and they hold up provocative signs. They purposely and effectively tempt and provoke others, grieved and grieving members of the community by holding up signs that diminish, dismiss, and even utterly negate their pain and suffering. And yet, many of them, through their persistence and nihilistic messages in a seemingly cold and uncaring world manage to recruit and gain more and more followers. 

Then there are those who have gone insane. Whether it is the priest who perceives messages from the other world and who believes to have met and spoken to an incarnation of God or whether it is the ex-police commissioner who hears voices telling him to go to Australia and engage in tribal dances while singing aboriginal songs to avert the apocalypse, the lines between reason and irrationality, reality and imagination and sanity and insanity become quite blurry.

Like in real life, miracles happen, and then, they do not happen. Some become terrorists and are ready to do anything to get their message across, but it is not always clear what they say or want, except for the end result of creating chaos, anarchy, and instability. Sounds familiar?

Moreover, in The Leftovers, there are those who claim to be prophets, and they seem to be false, while there is a town that is apparently spared from disgrace and departures, but it is cordoned off and protected from any outsiders and outside influences. Anyone to come and visit must have a wristband to show to gain entry as this small and previously insignificant town has become the emblem of the Holy Land, a territory that is protected, and spared by God. And then, there are also resurrections.

And all that I have expressed here is merely and barely the tip of the iceberg. There is sheer craziness and outright madness alternating from weird, bizarre, funny to touching, moving, and deeply personal, often changing within instants and moments. It is upheld and held together by an outstanding score by Max Richter that will haunt you for time to come.

And we are faced with various existential questions and dilemmas of the human condition that simply cannot have neat and satisfying answers. Why are some people spared of disease and death, while others are not? The pandemic has attacked some more than others, has given some people a mild version while others have been crippled by it, and many have died as a result. Then, there are those who refuse to be vaccinated and claim that it is a worldwide conspiracy.

The question also remains, ever since life started to exist on this planet, and after the Big Bang or since the expulsion of Adam and Eve, what happens after we die? Where do we go and are we to return in one way or another? Do we merely stop existing like a blown-out candle or is our energy transformed? What happens to the smoke and where does it go? What are we and why are we here and where do we come from and where do we go?

I am not saying that The Leftovers has the answers to all or any of these questions. In fact, I would say that it raises them and highlights and emphasizes them. It makes you think, and it makes you cry while making you scratch your head in bewilderment. The series carefully treads and walks a tightrope connecting the mundane with the magical, the ordinary with the miraculous, the beautiful with the ugly, and that non-binary bridge between the shores of sanity and madness. If there is one program you would want to watch during these wild, crazy, and unpredictable times of the pandemic, this is the one to put on your immediate watchlist.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Overcoming Trauma: An Interview with Michele Rosenthal

Trauma Recovery Specialist Michele Rosenthal
Trauma is pervasive and invasive. It knows no boundaries, and if left untreated and left to its own devices, it will negatively shape and influence our life. It will affect us to varying degrees, and it often manifests itself in what is commonly referred to as PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder). Moreover, life-altering trauma has an immense outreach, and it holds, influences, and shakes us to the core of our being and changes who we are physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually; we are then haunted by the past, live in an anxious and fearful present while dreading the future.

And yet, there is a silver lining to all this toxic negativity: We can recover from trauma. It is going to be different for each person and a lot depends on the varying degrees and the types of trauma that we experienced but with determination, decision, and commitment, there is a way of out the jungle. It helps to have people who can guide us through the convoluted mess, especially those who have not only extensively studied it but who have also personally experienced trauma in their own personal lives.

In fact, Michele Rosenthal is such a helpful and resourceful guide. Not only does she love talking about trauma, but she has recovered from it herself, and she is offering us her wisdom as an author, speaker, and trauma recovery specialist. I had the pleasure to talk to Michele about her wonderful approach that helps people heal from trauma, reconnect with themselves, and gain emotional freedom and independence in the process.

As she herself states, what worked for her as she herself was in the trenches has been equally working for her clients. It is this personal dimension and lens of experience that I find commendable because it is not merely a theoretic study and understanding of the issues, but it comes from someone who has felt and experienced trauma in her bones.

Her three phases of trauma recovery along with nine steps can take you from confusion to clarity. It is all about control, not control over the outside world but control over yourself, that is your inside world. I am often reminded and inspired by the Serenity Prayer of knowing the difference and effectively distinguishing from what is in the realm and field of our control and what ends up falling outside of it.

But one ought to always be reminded and to keep in mind that recovery is hard. It will take a significant amount of dedication, determination, and hard work and may at times seem or feel more difficult than living with the symptoms of the trauma themselves, but it is absolutely worth the effort. It is an essential path (or discovery) and a potential return to (or rediscovery of) one’s true and authentic self.

The recovery will take you to a horizon where you can see yourself and others clearly and where you can reconnect to yourself. This is important because of the profound negative and debilitating effects that trauma has on your psyche. Trauma is a wound that you have suffered and gone through, and, in most cases, you have experienced something that many others have not.

As a result, this creates a distance between you and everyone else, there is, as Michele puts it, a disconnect between yourself and everyone else due to the realms and breadth of the devastating experience you have had. It could also lead to a disconnect because of disassociation, depersonalization, and derealization, all of which are defense mechanisms and are meant to protect you from the harrowing experiences you have gone through.

It is then very important to create a safe ground and platform where you will have the opportunity to reconnect with yourself that includes various phases across the spectrum. It is a gradual, piecemeal process that will be hard, difficult, and challenging at first but that can eventually lead you to feel better and to gain emotional freedom.

To reach the desired goal of recovery, Michele uses a hybrid of traditional as well as alternative approaches. Part of it is talk therapy, where you can freely discuss the issues as well as note and notice the feelings and thought processes involved; through this analysis, you can gain vital insights. Talk therapy is important because trauma impacts the language center of the brain and there is power (often combined with a sense of relief) in using language and actively expressing one’s emotional states.

Talk therapy and Cognitive Behavior Therapy are great ways to start, but the problem is that they are mostly focused on behavior modification and do not address the unconscious mind. Current conventional methods often do not access the unconscious, which stores and holds vital pieces of traumatic information and emotion. To bring about significant and effective change in your life, you need to reprogram the neurological structures, and other, more alternative, methods are better suited for this purpose.

In fact, there are two important points to highlight here; it is often not enough to just show up and be in the office, and worse, to assume it is the therapist’s job to fix things. You must be actively involved in the recovery process and must fully commit yourself to the work in-between and outside of the sessions.

The second point is that trauma and, more generally, the past, influences the present both consciously and as previously mentioned unconsciously as well. As a significant amount of your experience has been delegated to the unconscious, it is necessary to distill and address these deep-seated issues and root problems. As the neurological patterns and programming are always operating, you need to find a way to deal with them before you can aim for any substantial recovery.

Michele uses various methods for this, including hypnosis and NLP (Neurolinguistic programming) as well as energy psychology and transformation processes to be able to tap into and reach the unconscious and to reprogram the underlying neurological structures. This is an important and often difficult task as unconscious programming is quite powerful. We are biologically hard-wired and driven to survive, so as a result, on average, only 5% of your thinking is in the present moment, while the rest of the time is often spent on thinking about the past to retrieve lessons learned, while we look ahead and often worry about threats looming in the near and distant future.

All of this is best approached in a step-by-step process. In fact, trauma survivors usually cannot see the future and need to have a roadmap and plan that are grounded in the present as they would flesh out and focus on the immediate steps to be taken. This needs to be done in manageable ways and look at what you want to stop doing and what you want to start doing from now onwards. By breaking it all down into choices and actions, you can start gaining some initial control over your inner world and bring about and bring forth some initiatives and changes all emanating from a safe and supportive environment.

While some may opt for pharma prescriptions, and it may be warranted in certain cases and situations, it is best to embrace mindful-based approaches to become more aware and self-aware and to be able to see yourself and to experience yourself more fully rooted in the present moment. Once you are mindful of where you came from and where you are situated at the current moment, you can take the next steps towards where you want to go and where you want to be.

Once that is achieved, at least to a certain and sufficient degree, the next step would involve consistency and working day to day towards your full recovery. In fact, the change part is very difficult and involves not only identifying the root cause and the solution for soothing your wound but also shifting meaning and developing new programming. While many may have resorted to different forms of addiction and substance abuse as a form of survival and of dealing with constant abuse in their life, you would begin to discover and adopt healthier coping mechanisms.

It is at the third level of recovery in which you have laid down the groundwork and have the chance and opportunity to deliberately create your new post-trauma identity. At this point, you will have the necessary internal control to clear up the past, resolve it and make all the vital changes for the future. As Michele explains, you will have the emotional and spiritual bandwidth to be the kind of person you want and wish to be, and with this strategy in mind, you can take the final step in her approach, which is integration.

This includes a more holistic paradigm in which you intentionally and deliberately blend who you have decided to be with all your past history. It is essential not to shut out, ignore, or pretend that the past did not exist and did not happen but rather to give it its rightful space and embed it into your own personal outlook and fabric. And as you have now gone through a transformation from powerless, where the past consumed and controlled you, you can step into your self-empowered state in which you now acknowledge and see the past as a tiny dot and a tiny little aspect of yourself, a drop in the immense ocean, which is you at your full potential and at your best and healthiest version of yourself.

A Big Thank You to Michele Rosenthal! You can access the full-length interview as a video on YouTube or as a podcast on Arash's World Podcast.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Connecting and Aligning with Your True Self: An Interview with Coach Luce Campagna

Life and Leadership Coach Luce Campagna
Most of us will have moments when we feel stuck or when we feel frustrated with the way things are going in our lives. But this feeling has never been as marked and pervasive as during the pandemic, which has put many a life on pause, and, in some cases, it has brought our lives and even our livelihood to a (presumably temporary) standstill.

If this halt and time for introspection and re-evaluation happen to be coinciding with another important crossroad and segment of our lives, a period known and labeled as "midlife crisis", then this feeling of unease and confusion will be felt not only much more strongly and intensely but it can also bring with it rewarding fruits alongside potential and opportunities for transformation.

These were some of the topics that I had the pleasure to discuss with life and leadership coach Luce Campagna. Her work involves and includes helping people to reconnect them to themselves. Moreover, she will craft an actionable and deliverable plan to help her clients to get to where they want to go. As she put it herself, coaching is a journey back to oneself and it is vital and important to get in touch and to be intimate with oneself.

Yet even with a good plan and a detailed roadmap, there will be various roadblocks on the way. They often come in the shape and form of limiting beliefs and/or trauma, while under current circumstances, we are all experiencing an additional layer and state of confusion and shock, courtesy of the pandemic.  This is mainly due to drastic changes to our lifestyle and the fact that we now have more time to be alone with ourselves.

This can be a double-edged sword, that is, a curse and a blessing. After a life of constant doing and external pursuits and of always being on the go, it has been hard to get accustomed to this new lifestyle, and the extra time that is bestowed upon us and that each of us is spending with ourselves. It is not only unusual but, in many cases, it is even uncomfortable, and it brings us face to face and upfront and personal to what Luce calls a time of reckoning. We ask ourselves - and perhaps even more so if we are middle-aged - is this the life that I want to have and lead and is this the path I want to continue?

In fact, this feeling of discomfort, this lack of alignment with one’s true self and calling can lead to escapism and checking-out behaviors, such as video games, substance abuse, or any other addiction and unhealthy coping mechanism. It is shocking but not surprising to find out that mental health issues have increased since the advent of the pandemic and that more and more people are drinking alcohol and taking drugs to deal with this difficult and challenging situation.

Here in Canada, during our general lockdown, the liquor stores remained open because it was considered an essential service alongside the same lines and in the same vicinity of grocery stores and supermarkets. Personally, I was certainly not displeased with this fact as my wife and I like to consume a bottle of wine once a week, but I can also see how this could imply that many may resort to alcohol to deal with their issues and problems and to numb their discomfort and pain.

And yet, those of us who have the courage to embrace the reckoning can benefit from the whole situation. It can serve as a catalyst and essentially catapult us towards a healthier, happier, and more fulfilling life. As the outside begins to blur and fade, the focus is now on the inside, and you can pay attention to what is important to yourself, including your values, self-knowledge, and the opening and widening paths of self-discovery.

In other words, where you once felt you had lost contact with yourself or that you were merely driven by your fears and anxieties, where you were able to ignore the nagging sense of discomfort and the sensation that you were living a half-fulfilled life, or worse, one that lacked substance and purpose, now would be the chance to see wider vistas and opportunities.

The question remains and comes to the foreground, who is in charge and who will be driving the bus? Metaphorically speaking, the part of you that is fearful and traumatized may be the five-year-old version of yourself. Although we age and physically mature, it is often possible that we lag and fall behind psychologically speaking. When that is the case, it is important to not be driven by our fears but to have the more mature version of ourselves take control of the steering wheel.

This is a process called re-parenting in which one faces and acknowledges previous trauma but of course in a kind, gentle and compassionate manner and then manages to care for, release, channel, and control this energy. The trauma is often lodged in the unconscious but by filtering it out and making it conscious, we can then heal and move on and start making better decisions that stem from our current self. It is reclaiming the right to be in the driver’s seat.

Many, however, and understandably so, may look for avenues to check out and will ignore the five-year-old only to give it more fodder and power. It is a form of not taking or not wanting to take responsibility for one’s actions or even deluding oneself to be in control when one clearly and most definitely is not. This lack of acknowledgment of our inherent fears and emotions will then lead us to act without being aligned with or attuned to ourselves and can then lead to various mental health issues, such as malaise, unease, depression, and anxiety and this may manifest itself physically as well in the form of disease and other medical conditions and complications.

It then becomes so important to try to understand why we engage in behaviors that are not serving us, whether it is avoidance, checking-out behaviors, or a consistent and persistent dissatisfaction with our lives and our core being. This is also where a coach can be of help and of assistance in crafting and chiseling out a plan to get to a more robust, healthier, and happier version of yourself.

A life coach like Luce can help you shed light upon and trace your potential and help you to embrace your innate and perhaps hidden talents. As she herself explains, it is her job to empower individuals to get to know themselves and to have some sort of mastery over themselves. For instance, you can then look at what your vision is of yourself, how you envision your own life, and not how others think you should be or what others claim you should be doing. It needs to come down to your very own personal checklist that you will gradually but consistently start filling one by one to reach your desired goal and destination, your life’s purpose, or your North Star.

Although the overall framework will be essentially the same, and Luce has created a creative and playful Playbook for your Life, the elements will be different and customized to each person’s unique needs and desires. Although we all go through similar processes and the main approach and roadmap would be the same, that is, the attempt to connect you with your true self and your core being, the paths and lines of getting there would be somewhat different.

Each of us will also have different challenges and obstacles to face but with a growth-oriented mindset and innate confidence in our own abilities, we can master it much better. We need to engage with ourselves instead of abandoning ourselves with escapist checking-out behaviors. This may even lead to a complete change of relationships with alcohol, work, video games, food, exercise, or whatever your addiction and unhealthy coping mechanism may be.

And it seems that we become more vulnerable to these emotional challenges during middle adulthood. Maybe something catches up with us at this point, while life has taught us to look at ourselves with a different lens. At this point, we may realize that we are losing time and it is going to be time for an overhaul and a re-evaluation and re-calibration that could potentially lead to what Luce calls our midlife awakening. This is most likely the driving force and motivation behind the Great Resignation that is occurring now.

But it is not going to be easy nor comfortable but then again, you will have not only friends and loved ones by your side but also a coach who will attend to your needs and help you overcome challenges as you are opening your own can of worms. Each challenge or each reaction you have can then serve as a vital source of information that can be analyzed, understood, reframed, and acted upon.

It can and will be a jarring experience, but it will certainly be helpful and beneficial in the short term, and even more so in the long term. Even your anger, seen under the right light, can tell you about yourself as it can be a reaction to your values and boundaries being crossed and infringed upon, and you can figure out how to deal with this so that you can reach inner peace and calm down the road.

Regardless of your age, generation, or life experiences, the overall goal and remedy are essentially the same: to find your true self, to align yourself with who you are, and to deal with the many obstacles and curveballs that will come your way. And yet, when all is said and done, the choice, responsibility, and work will have to come from you and from you alone. A coach can help, facilitate, train, and practice with you, but it is you who would have to enter the field and play the game.



If you would like to read more about Luce Campagna and her services, you can consult her website: Luce Campagna Coaching.

I want to thank Luce for an excellent interview in which we also discussed various other matters that are not included here and that I shall add and write about at a later date. Particularly, her insights into leadership and what makes a good leader are quite fascinating!

In the meantime and for the time being, you can access the interview and may see and/or listen to it for yourself on YouTube as well as Arash’s World Podcast.



Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Neuroplasticity and the Cortisol and Serotonin Switch: An Interview with Dr. Loretta Breuning

Dr. Loretta Breuning
One of the first major seismic shifts in world history was the realization that the Earth was not the center of the universe as had been previously stated and believed. With this revolution came a sense of displacement; overnight, humanity had lost its special location and standing in the cosmic scheme of things. The second revolution occurred with Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution, which placed and enmeshed humans fully within the world of animals. Our physical ancestors were not angels after all; they were monkeys.

Moreover, and psychologically speaking, it was Freud who discovered and added animal instincts to complete the picture of this perceived displacement. We have the commonly shared territory of the id, the unconscious reservoir of dark impulses, sexual urges, and aggression that ought to be controlled, diverted and dealt with to avoid impending chaos and destruction. As we can see, we still have a very long way to go to peace and tranquility, but what may be perceived by some as a loss in pride and entitlement and by others as a lesson in humility can, in fact, be harnessed and utilized towards a better understanding of the human species.

As a matter of fact, this was one of the main topics of my interview with the renowned brain chemistry expert and founder of the Inner Mammal Institute, Dr. Loretta Breuning. Her book Status Games: Why We Play and How to Stop sheds light on various trends and behaviors, including competition and social rivalry and their established link and connection with the animal world. 

Before we delve into specifics about the interaction, interplay, and interconnectedness between humans and animals and how it can benefit us to understand our own behaviors as well as that of others - including how that new-found knowledge and insight can lead to greater emotional freedom as well as move us towards potential happiness - let us first deal with the elephant in the room.

In recent times, as noted and observed by Dr. Breuning, there is a trend towards romanticizing and idealizing wildlife and animals. Unlike before, when we upheld humans as shiny examples of the natural world, nowadays, in academia and mainstream currents, we are going in the opposite direction by upholding nature in all its supposed glory as an angelic role model to follow. This is not merely seeing and sympathizing with animals as oppressed and victimized beings but of instilling and projecting into them inherent goodness and compassion that seems borderline angelic in nature.

There are two examples that come to mind demonstrating this and the potential harm associated with such a way of idealized and idealistic thinking. On one hand, we would overlook and ignore the fact that animals lack the human moral capacity in relation to decision-making and judgment. There may be – and I would say there certainly is – a bond and affinity that transcends across species, a space in which pets and certain animals may see and relate to their benevolent owners or caregivers with care and affection, but at the same time, there is also a wild instinctive side to them, an aggressive and ingrained survival instinct that can resurface at any given moment regardless of the established bond between them.

My first example here is a scene from Natural Born Killers by Oliver Stone that has always stuck with me. The film cleverly connects the dots between human and animal nature but it also makes a counterpoint with the example of the snake. We hear an anecdote of a human taking care of a snake, feeding, and protecting it, and yet, one day, the snake bites its owner. The owner is shocked and asks the snake, how it could possibly return all his kindness with such a heinous and cruel act. The snake replies (I am paraphrasing from memory), my wild nature was known to you from the start, and it was always known to you that I am a snake and that betrayal was part of my DNA and, ipso facto, sooner or later, you would be bitten.

The second case I would like to mention is the wonderful but heartbreaking and sad documentary Grizzly Man by Werner Herzog in which the filmmaker documents various years of the life of the self-styled American environmentalist Timothy Treadwell. Treadwell had chosen to live in a bear habitat and shot some beautiful and amazing footage up-close with bears and other wildlife. That he managed to survive for years was a miracle, and we can see, often with our own eyes, how it was not always easy, but, in the end, he and his visiting girlfriend were mauled and eaten by one of the bears. The romantic and idyllic idea of nature and wildlife to be essentially loving and peaceful was suddenly and violently shattered into pieces.

Let us now switch to humans, and it is not hard to see that we are hardly doing much better. Although there are those who are good and decent, it often feels that they are in the minority since the ones who are cruel and abusive seem to abound and be anywhere; we can spot them in any direction we set our eyes on, be it in the media, in politics, at work, while they are often lurking among family, friends, and neighbors. Why is this so?

It is not enough to simply state and acknowledge that we behave this way because we come from monkeys; there are deeper insights to be gleaned from this fact. Animals have an ingrained structure of comparing themselves to others, which we have inherited from them. As Loretta explains, this hierarchical behavior of mammals is often, consciously, or unconsciously, copied by us, and it is the underlying reason why we are always comparing ourselves to others and that we constantly want and strive to be in a position of strength.

This makes perfect evolutionary sense because the overall goal and aim are to promote our genes; the difference is that we, as opposed to animals, have a possible vantage point because we have the potential to be aware of this trend, and yet, many fellow humans ignore this fact, or they lack the necessary insight or awareness.

Hence, for our own protection and survival, natural selection has built a brain that responds to this situation and promotes this in a natural fashion without the necessity of thought and awareness. The way it is done is through the release of good feelings via the neurotransmitter serotonin.

In a nutshell, whenever we feel stronger than others, our serotonin levels go up and we feel good about ourselves; on the other hand, whenever we feel weaker in the presence of others, the brain releases cortisol, a known stress chemical. As it is easy to see, the human challenge or dilemma is the following: How can we get that good feeling of serotonin without being a jerk?

However, as Loretta explains, the trick is to put yourself up without putting others down. This is often easier said than done. Bullying and denigrating others for a fix of serotonin is a much faster way to get the rush of good feelings pulsing through our veins. This is the proverbial dominant gesture that many copy from monkeys: they puff up their chest and give a direct stare and throw menacing grunts or words with veiled or open threats in your direction; they want to impress and intimidate you either with physical prowess or their social standing alongside the supposed power that comes with it.

If both parties are bullies by nature, they would get into a physical altercation or confrontation, but bullies generally know who to pick (although at times, they miscalculate their strengths or make mistakes and errors by underestimating the strength and power of others, mainly due to their own lack of intelligence). But the problem remains that if you see yourself as weak or if you have been a victim of bullying in the past, you tend to accept the abuse and violence and may even rationalize and justify it to yourself.

But it is best to be aware of this tendency and to notice it when it happens. Many of our reactions and comparisons with others stem from our own past experiences, particularly the way our brains wire in youth. There are different pathways that become set during those critical, vital, and impressionable years of brain growth, and you may either choose to always put yourself on top or you may resort to comparing yourself negatively with others by putting yourself down and on the bottom.

Evidently, neither path is healthy nor beneficial, and the problem is that not only do we keep repeating those patterns from when we were young, but we also tend not to see our own status games. This is not too surprising as our mammal brain, the part of the brain that controls our instincts and emotions is inherited by animals and cannot use language.

Put differently, these chemicals, especially the threat-sensing cortisol and the domineering sensation of serotonin really drive us, and we do not consciously decide or opt for them. Many will deny it through defense mechanisms as they always claim to see those types of unwanted behaviors in others but apparently never spot them within themselves.

And yet, there is hope and a path out of this jungle. The key lies in neuroplasticity and in rewiring your brain by creating and setting new pathways. We acquired many of these traits and feelings through our past conditioning and via mirror neurons. You are wired to repeat patterns of behaviors, including thoughts and emotions associated with them, and so whatever triggered your threat chemicals in the past will continue to do so until you decide to put a stop to it.

It starts with mindfulness, that is, being aware that we have been conditioned to mirror the behavior of others. In the process, you learn and mirror what gets rewards (dopamine kicks in) as well as what helps you avoid pain. First, you start by pleasing your partners but then the focus of your inner mammal will be on pleasing peers so that you can find a sex partner. This is one of the main reasons high school kids tend to follow their peers more than their parents.

The problem with neuroplasticity is that the older you get, the more difficult the task of changing, re-programming, or creating new pathways will be. These pathways are built easily and without much effort when we are young, but with age, it becomes more difficult to build those conditions. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and yet, it is possible but only with a lot of effort, determination, and persistence.

It would certainly help or be beneficial if there was any type of precedent set in the past. For instance, if you were helping others and got rewarded, you will continue to do so but, on the flip side, if you were rewarded for unhealthy behaviors, then you would likely choose and take unhealthy steps. And yet, suffering can come in handy here. As Loretta points out, prominent people have gone through loads of suffering, and that includes Freud as well. He faced adversity and resistance but still managed to push ahead despite it all.

We can use his knowledge, experience, and insights to also push ahead and go past the resistance that we experience throughout our lives. It is possible to switch and turn your cortisol response into a reaction with serotonin. It cannot and will not happen overnight, but we can set ourselves a game plan by establishing clear and precise short, midterm, and long-term goals.

All this time, it is recommended to be driving in the middle lane. Sure, there is the temptation to go in the fast lane as we crave status and social dominance, fame, and riches and often we want to have it quick and easy, but all things considered, it will be a frustrating experience. We also have to face and accept the fact that we cannot always come out on top and that some will be always better and better off than we are.

On the other hand, the slow lane, although gradual and patient, will have its own share of shortcomings, such as the unenviable feeling of being left behind or even feeling angry and resentful, which will in turn - yes, you guessed it - precipitate a cortisol response. The best thing to do is to keep it real and to remain cool.

What makes you cool? I can give you Loretta’s response to this topic of interest: What makes you cool in high school, or any other time of your life, is the same that makes you cool in a monkey troop. If looking to impress a mate, you want to have a healthy appearance as the brain selects for partners that are healthy, and this provides the potential guarantee of keeping your genes alive.

You also want to have a strong social alliance. This explains why youth and adults may get involved with gangs or build connections, coalitions, and alliances to get a seat on the "cool" table. The real aim of high school is to win over desired and desirable sex partners, but some people are still stuck in that state and stage notwithstanding their physical age.  

Finally, there is the willingness to take risks. As a high school student - and even years after that - I was afraid to talk to potential romantic partners, while the cool kids made it look easy by merely going up and talking to them. This timid behavior often goes hand-in-hand with doubting and second-guessing yourself, but the element of risk, of stepping outside of your comfort zone and the status quo, can be helpful for various parts and domains of your life. We can learn from animals, listen to, and embrace our mammal brain, and yet, at the same time, we have the incredible potential of paving a path towards growth, transcendence, and self-empowerment in the process.



Such was my wonderful interview with the amazing Dr. Loretta Breuning! You can access the full interview either here or you can catch it on my podcast: Arash’s World Podcast!

Thursday, October 7, 2021

The Age of Adolescence and the Adolescent World: An Interview with Erica Komisar

Erica Komisar
Often when we talk about the “good old days” and reminisce about the past, we tend to skip over the turbulent and often troublesome period known as adolescence. There seems to be something about being a “teenager” that apparently brings out the worst in us. We may recall days of anger, angst, emotional turmoil, and misunderstandings from peers and parents, or we remember (or prefer to ignore) being excluded from groups, or we may have clicked with some groups at the expense and exclusion of others.

Although we often find and put our finger on what is commonly known as our vocation during childhood, it is during the time of adolescence that we reignite and reconnect with that specific passion of ours. This happens for a reason. It is during this difficult time period and transition that we connect with our interest with renewed and intense passion because it is a way of dealing with the pain and uncertainty that we experience. Alternatively, it may represent a type of escape and refuge from it all.

In either case and be it as it may, it is a way of ensuring that we do not lose our minds and our fragile eggshell sanity. What saved me back then was the trifecta of BCMM: books, mainly of literature and of philosophy, classical music, and movies. These three “hobbies” of mine still continue to be my existential backbone and the purveyors of happiness even at - or rather especially during - desolate times.

I had the absolute pleasure to talk about these very same issues of despair, desolation, and loneliness, the adversity known as adolescence, with psychoanalyst and parent guidance expert Erica Komisar. Her book Chicken Little the Sky Isn’t Falling: Raising Resilient Adolescents in the New Age of Anxiety is not only a masterful and insightful self-help guide for parents and child adults everywhere, but it is a godsend for me especially now that my son shall be firmly setting foot into this tumultuous period of his - and our - life.

Sorry to start with a piece of sad and unfortunate news: in modern terms and with the advent and age of technology, the age of adolescence has extended its range from age nine to age twenty-five! This growth period is divided into three main phases: the early adolescence of Exploration from nine to thirteen, the middle adolescence of Declaration - formerly known as the main teen years - from fourteen to eighteen, and the late adolescence of Confirmation aka the young adult period from nineteen to twenty-five. It is not until the end of adolescence that the brain has fully and emotionally matured, at least hopefully and theoretically so, but more on this a bit later in my post.

Although adolescence is a critical period of brain growth, it is not the only one, nor is it the first one. The first critical period begins at birth until age three, and it is crucial for emotional regulation and resilience to stress. At this stage, the environment is especially important, and the infant and subsequent toddler remain extremely sensitive to stress. Erica has dedicated her first book Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters to this precise period in which parents, especially mothers, serve as the child’s primary attachment and work as stress buffers.

It is essential and vital for the caregiver to always be there, to be present, and to help to soothe the infant from moment to moment as this would biologically regulate the child’s emotions, lay down the foundations of emotional security as well as create a safe haven and a solid trust in the environment. These are important building blocks for effectively dealing with and regulating stress and for paving the bridge of resilience, all in preparation for later stages during which they would be put to the test, in particular the age of adolescence.

By taking care of your child especially for the first three years of his or her life, by buffering them from too much stress and by not putting them into institutional care and facilities, such as daycares during those critical years of growth and connection, the stress-sensing part of the brain, the amygdala, will become quiet - which is a good thing - and it does not come online. Children growing up without their primary attachment figure or with mothers who - in pediatrician and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott’s famous term – are just not “good enough”, or, as in my own case, who are raised by a narcissistic mother, these children will essentially lack an emotionally secure foundation, which could potentially last a lifetime.

Then, the emotional storm of adolescence hits the stage, and this is the second critical period of brain growth where the brain is once again vulnerable and under attack. Even for healthy kids, adolescence is a trauma, but for someone with less emotional security and less ability to regulate their emotions, it is so much harder to get through unscathed.

Not only is this a stressful period on its own, but it is confounded by additional layers of stress, especially during this age of anxiety, which includes economic uncertainty, political and social disruption and upheaval in the fabric of our existence, natural disasters, and climate change alongside the predominantly negative influence of social media, and the unexpected and unheard-of challenges of a pandemic.

Adolescence is a period where, as a parent, we have an incredible impact and influence on our child and immense and undeniable responsibility that comes with it. It certainly does not help that we feel powerless and confused ourselves or that we put and unload extra and unnecessary stress on our children and young adults.

This is also where independence becomes of importance, but many parents misunderstand what this means and what it entails. There can also be cultural pressure, such as Japan’s disturbing and borderline-cruel tradition of sending out three-year-olds on errands in busy urban city centers (I learned this shocking tidbit from the first episode of Apple TV+’s Becoming You, in which the usually lucid Olivia Coleman falsely attributes this traumatic experience to be a show and sign of real independence); on the other hand, there is the equally emotionally misguided cultural practice of parents, particularly fathers that refuse to give hugs and kisses to their children in various parts of the world.

The period of adolescence is important for the psychological developmental process known as separation-individuation. It is a time for a natural and healthy separation of the child from his parents and caregivers. When they were infants, they would learn to take their first steps during the first critical growth period; at this point, adolescents would learn to take their first steps away from their parents to create a little bit of distance between each other. As a result, the adolescent learns to function in the world and gains confidence by being physically and emotionally separated from their parents.

It is, however, important to keep in mind that independence is not binary. Although the adolescent starts to individuate, that is to form his or her own identity, they still count and need parental emotional support and guidance. They may consciously push away their known source of security and support and instead try to depend more on peers and teachers, but it is all part of their existential crisis and the opportunity for personal growth and knowledge. Yet it does not mean by any means that they are, can, and even should be fully sufficient at that age.

As a parent, we still need to be there for them, but we can let them know in clear terms that they can be dependent on us sometimes and still be independent at other times and that it is not an either-or decision. It is not a binary case of one or the other nor of having to stick to independence at the expense of dependence but rather a bit of both, each in their own due time and each as needed and required.

Nonetheless, it does not change the fact that our beloved adolescent offspring will go through a painful period of growth as they start to depend on themselves and during a period of their lives that is full of conflict and filled with many mood changes. All this necessary turmoil can be a tad, or rather a lot, smoother with love and emotional support from their parents. It is essential that our children know and feel that when they need us, we will indeed be there for them.

But let us be accountable and accept responsibility for our own parental actions, missteps, and errors. First off, we ought to be aware of the fact that age does not automatically equal emotional maturity. Put differently, not everyone has developed emotionally to be at their purported physical age, and, in fact, it is quite possible that we got stuck at a specific point of our lives, and even more likely that we may have indeed become stuck and stagnated at the adolescent level.

Many parents have had significant trauma and their pain goes back to adolescence. They may have amnesia about it and may not be able to remember anything or seemingly fail to recall the painful parts. The symptoms go back to their own experience of adolescence, and therapy can help them to not only reflect on where in that development they got trapped and stuck but also how to move past those emotional hurdles and obstacles.

In fact, as Erika mentioned to me, we are meant to move through these stages of development, but we do not always go through them, especially if there is trauma that interrupts it. In this way and manner, therapy opens doors and windows to resolve age-old conflicts that did not get resolved in their own time and that is now carried over unconsciously into one’s current experience and mindset.

Having a child in adolescence may jumpstart development in this area of our own lives, so it is most useful to be aware of and pay attention to specific characteristics of your child that tend to push your own buttons. If something about them continuously upsets you or gets on your nerve, these so-called buttons may represent your own unresolved conflicts that they may have actually learned from you! These are characteristics that we may have passed down to our children in an unconscious manner, and they can be manifested in notable and noteworthy anxiety, depression, paranoia, or harsh self-criticism.

In fact, it is easy to blame social media or others, but it is undeniable that children learn values at home, and they do not come from social media nor from society alone. If material success and high achievement are prioritized in your life, then these superficial aspects and appearances are going to be what your adolescents will also value in their lives. On the other hand, if you value relationships, family, and meaningful work, then that is what you effectively teach to your children.

It is you who teaches them what’s valuable and what’s not; in fact, looking at your children can feel like looking at the mirror. It becomes a problem when you displace and project your own wishes, desires, and frustrations onto them and try to model your children into mini-versions or clones, or idealized versions and extensions of yourself. For instance, you yourself may have failed in school, but you will demand - and obsessionally and unreasonably so - that they demonstrate high achievement in school.

This anxious push by parents will create a lot of anxiety and puts a tremendous amount of pressure on your child. If society and social media emit similar messages, these values can only reinforce the values that came from us initially. If our adolescents are overvaluing superficial and material success, then it may be because we have taught them to do so with our words and actions, consciously or unconsciously.

It is hard to own up and accept one’s failings and shortcomings. But when I see children that are troubled or misbehaving or even bullying others, that often reflects negatively on their home environment, and, in particular their parents. I always found it amusing that Cesar Millan of the show The Dog Whisperer would rarely work on the dogs but would “treat” the dog’s owners. In the same way, we often blame our children for things and issues that we do not want to accept within ourselves. In either case, we are much more responsible for their development than we may think.

This is a sad reality when it comes to the (mis)diagnosis of ADHD. It is overblown, and it is more often a symptom than a disorder. It stems from anxiety and comes from different types of frustrations in our young child’s life. It is tragic that many parents would jump and resort to using medications to treat the symptoms and, in that process, leave the issues unresolved and damage their child’s health and wellbeing.

It is often, as Erika explained because parents prefer the quick and easy solution that ends up causing significant and occasionally irreversible damage to the child’s physical and psychological growth. Instead, caring and mindful parents should take the time and effort to look and analyze the situation and to get to the root of the problem, which is, as in the case of Cesar’s misbehaving dogs because of the caregivers and not necessarily an inherent issue or flaw with the children themselves.

The fact that many people are continuously stuck in adolescence or have not overcome adolescent trauma is not surprising if you look out the window in today’s world. Adolescents are driven by extreme binary ways of seeing the world and of limited ways of thinking due to the lack of development within their brains.

Hence, in the adolescent world, you are either with them or you are against them, you are either in or out, you are either a good or a bad person, and you are either right or wrong. These walking “child adults” just like adolescents, and in some cases even worse than them, lack the ability to take in multiple nuanced perspectives, and they lack overall emotional and cognitive maturity.

They may even embrace activism with a passion but lack the empathy to fully understand and think about the issues. They may sound convincing but there may be a lack of understanding of what is important and essential. Essentially, the outgrowth of entitlement, which comes from deprivation alongside its juvenile expression via harmful trends like Cancel Culture, is often due to a lack of understanding, empathy as well as emotional maturity of the parties involved.

But like adolescents who can outgrow this dark period and get past the tunnel of stress and anxiety, there is hope for all of us, parents and adolescents alike, to come out stronger, and more empathic, more insightful, and more emotionally and spiritually mature and where we can not only see but actually visualize that the future can indeed be different from the present.

I want to thank Erica Komisar for her time, insights, and wonderful work! I also want to thank her publicist Lindsey Mach for arranging this wonderful interview!

To access the full-length interview, which is much more detailed and extensive, please take a look here or have a listen to Arash's World Podcast.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

A Room of Our Own: An Interview with Creativity Coach Eric Maisel

Eric Maisel

“O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.”

Hamlet Act 2 Scene 2

"Yes, we all need a room of our own, and it's alright

Yes, we all need a place to call home."

Billy Joel

We all need a room of our own. This need certainly surfaces and arises in adolescence, if not sooner, and it is something we carry around with us for the rest of our lives. It is a place that we fully identify with, and in which, our freedom, privacy, and our core being are valued and respected. It is often a physical room, like teenagers who have their own space and area where they listen to the music they like and where they can freely talk to and be with anyone they desire.

It can also be a specific location and space that we cherish, a park bench, a relaxing spot away from the office, a coffee place, or even our mental space where we can be who we are and do as we like. This room of our own exists even when we are living with another person, when we are married and have children, or are surrounded by many people. It can also exist when we find ourselves in a confined space, such as in a hospital ward or in a prison.

In fact, as Eric Maisel, family therapist and creativity coach pointed out to me, the medieval monastery cell was not that different from a prison cell in terms of shape and size. The difference lay in the fact that the monk had freedom of movement if he chose to do so but there was also a significant shift in their mindset and overall experience. A monk may deliberately choose and opt for that confined lifestyle and even delight and relish in it. Although a prisoner does not deliberately make that choice, he or she could still consider themselves a king (or queen) of infinite space, but unlike Hamlet without the accompanying nightmares. Similarly, you could be living in a luxury home and still feel bound and imprisoned, not physically but rather mentally and emotionally.

Now that we have established both the physical room, but more importantly, the mind-over-matter mental and emotional room, I would like to point out Eric Maisel’s ingenious approach to this mindroom of ours as depicted, described, and elaborated in his excellent book Redesigning your Mind: The Breakthrough Program for Real Cognitive Change.

I had the pleasure and honor to talk to him about how you can not only see and spend time in this mindroom of yours but how you can actively change it by reimagining, redecorating, and repainting it in various different beautiful, and colorful ways and manners. In fact, most of us are living our days in a mindroom that is stuffy and filled with repetitive, limited, and limiting thoughts circulating in our weary and exhausted heads and bodies.

But what if you installed large sun-filled windows into it and opened the window to let the breeze in to clear the stuffy air! What if you scraped off the old wallpaper and replaced it with new vibrant and shiny colors! What if you put in a light switch that you can flip on when proverbial nights set in and, as such, be able to brighten our rooms? For those of us who have a somber in-dwelling style, an anxious, fearful, critical, and often angry outlook and feeling, why not imagine a brighter place and lighten your surroundings with a much better view and vista?

Eric’s idea of seeing your own mind as a room is immensely creative and commendable. Descartes had seen the mind as a stage but that would be too much in the public view, and it would be bound with stress and pressure without barely any privacy or intimacy. To imagine your mind not only as your own room but to visualize changes and amendments within it, is absolutely fascinating and enticing to me. You are what you think, but what if you started thinking differently, and, as such, were able to change our mindset and shift your paradigm towards real change, as the subtitle in Eric’s book is alluding to. 

There is a problem though, but it is not insurmountable: We all carry a bed of nails in our respective mindrooms. The room is haunted and imbued with secrets, ghosts, and ghouls of the past, subjective experiences of failures here and there, and depreciating and belittling comments, rumors, and gossip that we heard and overheard and that we infused into our private spheres. The traumatic bed of nails is pain-inducing, but it can be hauled out and be replaced by a soft comfy bed or an easy chair.

In fact, CBT (short for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) has its strengths and merits and can be moderately successful for dealing with certain issues and problems related to mental health and healthy functioning, but it also has its share of shortcomings with (pun alert) significant room for improvement. Its main dilemma exists in the perplexing feat of trying to replace a negative thought with a positive one. All this does is accumulate thoughts, and, in the end, all you are left with is, in Eric’s words, the idea of merely arm-wrestling thoughts.

But by moving away from this dilemma and changing your perspective - and keep in mind, he’s a creativity coach - then we can have the ability to change the source and origin of those thoughts. Once we start doing that, it is not just about gaining and maintaining control but living in peace and tranquility where the thoughts we do not want do not even bother to arise in the first place!

Since the body and mind are inherently and intricately connected, you can indeed use the mind to make and bring about the changes that you want to see and make in your daily life. All you need to do is to go to your room, a well-chosen and well-suited metaphor for our purposes, and imagine it differently; you would make changes that make sense and that are useful to you at that specific moment of your life. Visualization and imagination are proven and evidence-based ways that can help us break out of the rut and the vicious cycle we have gotten ourselves into and we have become entangled and enmeshed in.

To return to the previously mentioned prison metaphor, we can transform the prison cell into a monk cell. As Eric explains, medieval monks and prisoners were technically in the same place, it was practically the same dark-walled place after all, and yet, they had different experiences, and they related to the place in very different ways and manners.

So we can overcome our own limiting metaphors and completely change the orientation of our very own mindroom as well as how it feels to us; we can do so by metaphorically removing the bars and by being aware that we literally are able to get out of this perceived prison. In this way, we can become aware of and activate and engage with our inherent potential and the many opportunities and possibilities both within and without.

One of the problems is that we are just not honest and truthful enough with ourselves. This is to our detriment as we have wall-papered our mindrooms with lies, falsehood, delusions, and deception. Moreover, we do not feel prepared for life and do not know how to respond to various situations in our life that may feel out of control. Hence, we simply abandon ideas or disregard and sabotage opportunities that could be helpful and beneficial to our psyche. In fact, we get badly stuck in life because we have simply not thought things through.

The way to overcome and circumvent this is to create our very own speaker’s corner in a designated corner of our mindroom. That is the place where we can freely speak and say what is on our mind without worries about getting into trouble and without censorship. Just say it, let it out whatever it is, and speak your mind.

This type of visualization is a form of rehearsal, the same way we can prepare for all types of performances, athletic or artistic, as well as for upcoming challenges and difficult and potentially stressful situations like job interviews or marriage proposals. Yet by rehearsing talking points, by going through it in our mind, we are priming and preparing ourselves for potential success and we will have answers ready at hand.

Eric’s creative, insightful, and humorous book, which makes psychology even more fun and interesting, can help us not only see things and ourselves differently and in a different light and room but it can also facilitate change in our lives and help us become better versions of ourselves. Without that bed of nails and the fear and insecurity nagging in our entrails, we can free ourselves towards fully being ourselves.

Yet I want to take this metaphor a bit further. It is true that we crave a room of our own, a private and even scared space that represents us, that is the home of our home, the heart of our heart and in which we can truly and fully be ourselves without worry or concern about pleasing others, friends, and family members, nor be concerned about displeasing others with our words and actions.

It is true that we need to use words and language to communicate and express our ideas and to identify and label our feelings. Thoughts expressed in words are vital and unavoidable, and they can potentially, when practiced with awareness and mindfulness, lead to gains and insights into our beings, that of others as well as our relationships with them.

But here’s a radical thought: what if you do not need to change your mindroom after all? What if it is the thought and language that are creating the limits and establishing the boundaries within yourself? What if there is “no best version” out there but there is an “only you” version: your unique way of being yourself. What if the most beautiful and life-transforming feats are not enshrined and enveloped in thoughts but simply are what they are without any comment or judgment, thoughtless and yet filled with feelings of bliss? What if there is after all a spiritual realm that we can simply tap into and connect with?

Did Eric’s idea for this book not come from in-spir-ation? Was it not that spiritual realm and sacred place that presented him with a gift and that he accepted, unwrapped, sculpted, and chiseled for us in elaborate and precise words as a form of dedication of and devotion for divine knowledge? But then again, the truth of truths cannot be spoken nor expressed, and as such, some unspoken truths are better left unsaid.



I want to thank Eric Maisel for this mind-blowing interview. He was also the catalyst for me finally buying a new, more comfortable and convenient, and well-deserved chair for my office! Thank you for the inspiration and motivation!


Here are some additional links to his book:

Amazon- http://bit.ly/RedesignYourMind


Bookshop- http://bit.ly/RedesignyourMind

Barnes and Noble- http://bit.ly/redesignYourMind

Indiebound- http://bit.ly/redesignyourmind


Moreover, I recommend checking out the full-length interview, which includes fascinating topics that are not covered in my blog post above, including further insights into creativity and the creative process, authoritarianism, and Improv comedy!


You can access it via YouTube or via my podcast: Arash’sWorld Podcast.