Five Keys to Giving the Best Speech of Your Life

There are plenty of resources that provide advice on delivering a speech and which focus on organizing the material, providing visuals, selecting a topic and being a commanding presence.

My advice is more ambitious: What keys make a speech something that changes people, in meaningful ways, within the scope of 20 or 30 or 60 minutes?

Provided you can choose the topic of your speech, I think there are five such keys. If you create a speech that embraces them, there’s a real chance people will leave the room and not forget what they heard—and not forget that you were the messenger. That’s a tall order, in an age of sound bites, Tweets and Instagram posts, but powerful ideas, powerfully presented will always have a place.

So, here are my five keys to giving the best speech of your life:

Choose a topic that can change lives: The topic doesn’t have to revolutionize the entire philosophical, spiritual or professional underpinnings of a listener’s life, but it should have the potential to fundamentally impact some aspect of the listener’s life. You might refine the topic, for instance, from “Forging Relationships that Work,” to “One Message that People You Connect with Deserve to Hear.” In other words, get right down to a core deliverable that can reach the core of an audience member.

Choose a topic that has meaning in your own life: Human beings have radar for messages “from the heart.” They can tell when you’re speaking about something you care deeply about and when you’re at a distance from your topic (and, then, inevitably, from them). For example, if you were speaking about “Why People Keep Cars for Decades,” don’t forget to share memories of a car that you still think about (and regret having sold) or one that your grandfather kept, long after it made financial sense to keep repairing it (and how you recall the pride he took in maintaining it).

Go the extra mile in being self-revelatory: Too many people believe that there is a risk in self-revelation—that they will be making themselves too vulnerable. In fact, the opposite is true; revealing parts of oneself that seem quite personal is a powerful way to connect with others. For example, if you were to share the story about your grandfather keeping his car longer than it made economic sense, why not dig a little deeper and share a story of when he stood in the rain to watch you play Little League baseball, too?

Help your listeners access deeper parts of themselves: Feel free to ask/instruct audience members to connect with the messages you are delivering. You can literally facilitate them personalizing and internalizing what you are sharing, if you develop the confidence to guide them. Here’s an example: “So, I want you to close your eyes, just for fifteen seconds. Don’t worry, I’ll watch the clock. And I want you to imagine one possession someone you loved kept close at hand, that they treasured. Okay, now close your eyes.” After 15 seconds, you could ask a few members of the audience to share their memories.

Conclude by reminding the audience what has just happened, because (with a little planning and follow-through), it really should have. Highlighting the magic that unfolded will reinforce its power, over time. You might say, “Okay, we’ve spent thirty minutes together. That doesn’t seem like a very long time, right? But I would say we’re no longer strangers. We reached a different level, together, if only for half an hour. Think about that during some other times you spend with co-workers or friends or family. And make the most of as many half-hours of your life as you can.”

That last point could really be seen as summarizing my message here. When you have the good fortune to have the attention of a group and the opportunity to speak from the heart, directly to their hearts, command that attention and take that opportunity—all the way to real connection. Your audience might well never forget having heard from you.

Keith Ablow, MD

Keith Ablow is the Founder of Keith Ablow Creative and The Ablow Center.

Is This the Best Advice to Fiction Writers, Ever Given?

There’s plenty of good advice there for fiction writers. Some of it, by the way, is contained in the work of the late Gary Provost (www.garyprovost.com), who created the Video Novel Workshop. The workshop is now available as a free download, but I bought that series of DVDs from Gary for about $60 when he was still alive. I used it to write 15 pages of my first published novel, Denial, and sold that book and its sequel to Random House, over lunch with the legendary publisher and editor Sonny Mehta (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonny_Mehta).

The Best $60 I Ever Spent

I know that sounds easy—like, add water and stir—but it only happened after I had written 3 complete manuscripts that had gathered about 100 rejection letters. So, in a very real way, Gary’s advice was the key to my beginning my fiction writing career, in earnest. The $60 I handed him was the best money I ever spent.

Still, Gary’s isn’t my choice for the best advice to fiction writers, ever given. I believe that advice came from J.D. Salinger, in his book Raise High the Roofbeams, Carpenter & Seymour: An Introduction.

The Iconic Advice
Salinger’s pearl of wisdom is delivered as part of a letter written by Seymour Glass to his younger brother Buddy Glass. Seymour is watching his brother sleep and wants to pen something that can propel his brother’s writing forward.

The advice he gives him is this:

If only you’d remember before ever you sit down to write that you’ve been a reader long before you were ever a writer. You simply fix that fact in your mind, then sit very still and ask yourself, as a reader, what piece of writing in all the world Buddy Glass would most want to read if he had his heart’s choice. The next step is terrible, but so simple I can hardly believe it as I write it. You just sit down shamelessly and write the thing yourself. I won’t even underline that. It’s too important to be underlined.

Can You Really Write What You Dream of Reading?

Of course, you can. If you can imagine it, you can create it. And what better way to proceed than to use Salinger’s creative device to step out of the role of writer into that of reader, to really step out of the present moment, and imagine reading the work that would move you more than any other.
Why not take 30 minutes today (and tomorrow, if necessary) to really think deeply about what story would speak to your soul and might have the power to change you, profoundly? Because that’s the story to write. That very one.

For Fiction Writers Only?
Is Salinger’s advice applicable only to fiction writers? No. I think architects, public speakers, painters, sculptors, teachers and a host of other professionals can use it, too.

Just imagine what building, what speech, what painting, what sculpture, what assignment would you most like to see or hear or be asked to complete, of all possible ones. Then, just create that very thing yourself.

I have to agree with Salinger: That step is terrible, but so simple I can hardly believe it.

Keith Ablow, MD
Founder, Keith Ablow Creative
www.KeithAblowCreative.com
[email protected]

“No One Walks in and Gets a Talk Show, Greg” Why you should take every shot you get.

I still remember about 12 years ago, sitting with my television agent Greg Lipstone at a sandwich shop in Los Angeles. Greg was one of the heads of television for the mega-entertainment agency William Morris. We had a few meetings scheduled with television show runners to talk about a drama series I had thought up, but there was a 90-minute gap between those meetings. We finished our sandwiches in about 15 minutes, then Greg looked at me and said, “You know, I’ve always thought you would be great as a talk show host. Warner Brothers is right across the street. We’ve got some time to kill. Let’s walk over and see if anyone will take a meeting.”

I was fresh off what had felt like a big disappointment to me. Expert Witness, a television pilot I had sold to CBS and executive produced (with Matthew Modine in the leading role), hadn’t been ordered as a series by the network (even though they spent $5 million on the pilot). I wasn’t up for pie-in-the-sky ideas. “Greg,” I said. “I want to stick with projects that might actually get produced. No one walks in and gets a talk show. No one gets a talk show, period, pretty much. It’s one in a million.”

“Yeah,” he said. “That’s true.” He finished his bag of chips, while we talked about my kids and his kids. Then he looked up at me, again, and said, “We might as well just go over there, right? We have too much time to just sit here.”

I decided to humor him. I mean, I figured the whole thing might make for a few laughs on the way back down to the Warner Brothers lobby, after a very quick don’t-call-us-we’ll-call-you discussion, with an executive assistant, upstairs.

Greg and I took the elevator up to the Telepictures offices (the television syndication arm of Warner Brothers). He walked up to the receptionist in the lobby. “I wondered if Lisa Hackner might be around,” he said. I didn’t know it, but Lisa Hackner had worked with Tyra Banks and other talk show hosts.

“What can I tell her this is about?” the receptionist asked.

“Please tell her Greg Lipstone is here, and I just want five minutes to introduce her to a psychiatrist who I think would be great on television,” Greg said.

The assistant picked up the phone and delivered the message. I was ready for a semi-polite dismissal. Instead, she looked at us and said, “Lisa’s eating lunch, but if that doesn’t bother you, she said I could show you to her office.”

Well, that hadn’t gone at all the way I’d thought it would.

Two hours later, after telling Lisa what I loved about working with patients and why I thought moments of searing insight could be achieved, even on a talk show, she asked me if I could stay an extra two days in Los Angeles, if she could pretty much promise me a contract for a talk show by the end of the two days.

I decided to humor her, just like I had Greg. “Sure,” I said. “I’ll stay. But if you talk about contracts with, say, 20 percent the people who come by for lunch, when only 1 in 1,000 really happen, then I could go home before the weekend, which would be okay, too.”

“I don’t talk about contracts after one meeting, basically, ever,” she said.

Two days later, much to my surprise, I signed a contract for the pilot of The Dr. Keith Ablow Show, which was taped at Rockefeller Center and ran for a full year—180 episodes, as I recall—in over 90 percent of the nation.

Lesson learned: Do not assume that lightning cannot strike. Do not be afraid to ask for exactly what you want, as a creator. In artistic endeavors, take every shot you get.

What would you love to do? Who are the gatekeepers and stakeholders you need to reach to make it happen? Don’t assume you can’t connect with them or that your ideas won’t move them. And if you want to team up with someone to make that happen, I’m right here. Just let me know. Because I’m convinced now that the universe brings people together, often at just the right times, for just the right reasons.

Keith Ablow, MD
Founder, Keith Ablow Creative, Inc.

Creative Crisis Management

A crisis is a disruption in one’s life story, whether the particular disruption is personal, professional or political. That’s why every crisis requires creative vision, in order to emerge with as little damage as possible—or, preferably, stronger than ever.

In the midst of the crisis, it can be difficult to see the possibility of surviving intact, let alone thriving. And that’s why having someone on board who can see that potential and move methodically toward it is so important.

First, let’s begin with the matter of mindset: I always tell anyone I work with who is faced with a crisis—however daunting it may seem—that the universe intends for the circumstances at hand to partly or substantially remake, not destroy, that individual. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be stress (maybe great stress) involved in the transformation. Life teaches tough lessons, at times. But the end result can always, always be a new beginning.

That mindset should be embraced like an amulet that can protect the person in crisis from becoming paralyzed by panic. The best questions to be asking oneself when crises arise are:

1) In what way am I being asked by the universe (or God, if you are a religious person) to become stronger?

2) How can I use everything that unfolds during this crisis to educate and enlighten people to positive lessons about what I am learning about myself, my company or the world around me?

3) After this storm passes (which it will), what new horizons will I see laid out before me?

Next, start “writing.” I put that word in quotes because narrative isn’t always the written word. Getting to the next chapters of your life story, or your political campaign’s, or your company’s may involve shoring up your connections with key stakeholders, getting your messaging about the crisis in order, putting that message out, thinking about a next galvanizing project and beginning that project. Precisely what that messaging should be, and that project should be, is the heart of the strategic craft of crisis management. Every element of the plan should be authentic to the individual executing it.

There is a real way forward. The creative crisis manager helps define what that path is and then walks it alongside the person or the people who find themselves in a storm.

If this sounds like leaning into the wind, it is. And anyone who has been in a storm knows it is the only way to make progress.

I like the words of the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu: “New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.”

Keith Ablow, MD

The All Important “Deck” to Secure Start-up Funding

Starting a business has an inevitable element of storytelling to it. First of all, it all starts with an idea, just like a novel does. The idea is an answer to this question: “What if?”

Here are three examples:

• What if people could . . . ?

• What if cell phones could . . .?

• What if an app could . . . ?

The difference between a new business and a novel, of course, is that the new business has to be completely non-fiction. Any element of the idea or the plan that is wishful thinking is a threat to the venture. That’s why the “deck” you’ll send out to potential investors needs to be as airtight as possible. Because anything that requires too big of a “leap of faith” to believe runs the risk of making investors far less likely to invest.

That’s why I spend some of my time consulting to people creating these decks—because as both a novelist and former bestselling NY Times non-fiction writer and Newsweek Fellow, I resonate at a very deep level with any image or language that suggests the writer or creator has veered toward fiction from fact. And those are the places where entrepreneurs need to lean into their decks to explain more about how (exactly) milestones in product development will be accomplished, why (exactly) the proposed marketing of the product or service will work and when (as exactly as possible) revenues will begin and begin to grow.

Entrepreneurs need to be careful to stay with non-fiction, because they are, inherently, artists. They are creating something that did not exist before. So the temptation to be expansive, to the point of unreality, is a real risk. A prediction based on data is A okay. A dream based on creativity and hope, without data, invites cynicism. And it’s often tough for the “author” of the dream (the entrepreneur) to tell the difference.

Yes, a lot of this sounds psychological. As someone who practiced psychiatry for more than 25 years, I’m sure I tend to focus on matters of mind a lot more than others might. But that is also because I have learned that people unconsciously assess ideas at multiple levels.

Here are just five:

1. Is the idea inherently powerful?
2. Is the idea unique?
3. Is the idea presented with confidence?
4. Is the idea presented with candor?
5. Is the path to profit very credible?

If you need help making sure you address all five questions, don’t hesitate to involve someone outside the circle of innovators and creators who came up with the idea or who stand to gain from it. A well-intentioned cynic, on your side, can be invaluable.

Keith Ablow

DON’T BE AFRAID TO LOOK AWAY FROM THE CAMERA (AND THREE OTHER TIPS FOR TV INTERVIEWS)

For executives, authors, attorneys or anyone who is not a veteran of on-camera work, it can be daunting when a news event or a publicity tour means going in front of the camera. Sitting in a small room for a satellite interview, with an earpiece in your ear and a video camera lens pointed at you, isn’t anything like having a normal discussion. Neither is a sit-down interview with a journalist who has question after question for you. Either situation can end up making you look or sound ill-at-ease.

Helping people get comfortable in front of television cameras is part of the consulting work I do. Providing comprehensive coaching to reach your goals. But I’ll share with you four bits of free advice right now on how to triumph over television as a medium.


1 – Look Away

Don’t be afraid to briefly look away from the camera or from the interviewer when you’re talking, as you would if you were in a regular discussion. Too many people who are interviewed on-camera stare straight into the lens or ceaselessly at their interviewers. You will look much more experienced and far more natural if you glance away from time-to-time, as if gathering your thoughts. Then you can look back into the lens of the camera or back into the eyes of your interviewer.


2 – Energy

Be about 50 percent more energized than you think you should be. Television dramatically reduces the energy level that viewers perceive in guests. In order to appear engaged and engaging, you’ll need to get comfortable using far more emotion in your voice and facial expressions than usual. Hand gestures help, too. The executive producer of my talk show once told me to feel free to occasionally stand up—literally get up, out of my seat—when I felt surprised by something a guest on the show said. “When you’re on camera,” she said, “you’ll need to be more animated than you would ever think to be off-camera. Otherwise, you’ll seem dull.”


3 – Sound Bites

Talk in sound bites, so that your comments are easy to use on television broadcasts. This means making sure that your answers are self-contained (with a beginning, middle and end) and relatively short – say, 15-30 seconds, if possible. It’s even better if the self-contained answers you give include an element of drama that makes them headline-worthy. An example: Ted Smith calls Apple rotten fruit. That kind of thing.


4 – Take a Pause

Pause for effect. You can pause, or pause and nod, gathering your thoughts, especially when you want viewers to sit closer to the edge of their seats. Television reduces energy levels, but it increases the dramatic impact of silence. So, use it.


Use these four tips, and you’ll be 75 percent better than most people are on camera.

What’s the rest of the recipe for success? Coaching. Appearing on television is no different from any other skill. You build it with feedback and fine-tuning. Whether you reach out to me, or to another coach, don’t hesitate to invest the time. Being a pro on-camera doesn’t take many practice sessions and can pay huge dividends, down the road.

Keith Ablow, MD

ONE QUESTION THAT CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE

There are lots of people out there who need a bit of encouragement.  And, sometimes, just one thought can turn the tide in favor of fighting a little harder or having a bit more hope.  So I’m going to let you in on one question I share with clients of mine who seem ready to throw in the towel and give up on themselves.

HAVE YOU EVER NOTICED THAT NO ONE WALKS OUT OF A MOVIE JUST BECAUSE THE LEAD CHARACTER IS IN TROUBLE?

Think about that. When a character played by Tom Cruise or Julia Roberts or Will Smith is up against it, when everything seems to be spiraling out of control in that person’s life, do you see anyone mutter, “Well, looks like he’s screwed, let’s go,” then get up and head for the exit? No.  That would be ridiculous, right?  Everyone stays in his or her seat, thinking, “I wonder what’s going to happen.” Or, “How’s she going to overcome this trouble?”  Or people look at their watches, expectantly wondering how everything is going to turn in favor of the lead character before the film ends.

One of the only times we are vulnerable to walking out on an unfolding narrative, losing faith that everything can still turn out for the best, is when the story is our own—when we are the lead characters. That’s when we are at risk to stand up and walk right out of the theatre.

I’ve had those feelings.  I’m human.  Recently, I had to deal with multiple bizarre lawsuits (which were all resolved, thank God) and then go to court and listen to a woman claim I was stalking her (a claim the judge, thank God, threw right out of court).  Watching all that unfold was like watching a double feature of horror films.

But I’m here to tell you that it makes no more sense to walk out on our own possibilities for victory and redemption than it does to walk out on those of a lead character in a film.  As long as we are living and breathing, as long as there is time left on the clock counting down our days on this planet, we have every reason to believe that we can still triumph over adversity.  The necessary ingredient is belief—faith.  Because faith insulates us from despair and fuels the fight inside us.  With faith, all is possible.

Are you feeling like walking out on your potential? On your dreams?  On your family?  On your sobriety?  God forbid, on your life?  I am telling you this, with unwavering certainty:  If you can at least resolve to stay in your seat and take an interest in the evolving narrative of your own existence, leaving the door open to every possibility, then you will be restored.

Now, let me tell you a secret (and if you already knew it, all the better): You can actually create your own storyline through the miracle of intention.  You can resolve that events turn in your favor, just like a screenwriter would script the triumph of a lead character in a film. And your resolve will make it so.

Keith Ablow, MD

Dr. Keith Ablow is the Founder of The Ablow Center.

 

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THE BEST FEDEX DELIVERY, EVER

It was not a good day, in a string of not very good days. I had been battling a series of bizarre legal cases that had made headlines and were weighing me down.  I wish I could say, otherwise, but I’m not entirely immune to worrying about what others think of me, even when I know the truth, so I found myself wondering if I would be held in contempt by most everyone in my home town, until I could make all the facts known.  And that could take years.

I was literally burdened by these very thoughts when the doorbell to my office rang.  I looked out the windows atop my front door and saw a Fedex hat.  I had a delivery.

Now, I can tell you that the specter of overnight mail, in the midst of legal cases, pleases no one, and I am no exception.  I imagine I looked something between burdened and burnt out when I opened the door.  “Hi,” I managed.

The fellow at my door had been to my office plenty of times with plenty of packages, and we’d had just a bit of time to chat about news headlines.  He had known that I had been a Fox News Contributor for a decade, and I had learned he had a keen interest in media. “Hi,” he said.

I searched his hands to see whether it was a Fedex letter he was delivering, which I would have assumed to be nothing good.  A package, on the other hand, might be nutrition bars, to which I am, for all intents and purposes, addicted.  But he didn’t seem to be holding anything at all. I looked at him.  “Need a hand with something from the truck?” I asked.

“No,” he said.  “I don’t have a delivery for you.  I just wanted to check in to make sure you’re doing alright.”

Those words reached something deep inside me, at the level of the soul.  Because I was on the ropes and wondering whether most folks had written me off, and this man had come to my door to check on me.  We weren’t family.  We weren’t even what the world would consider friends.  But we had obviously established an extraordinary connection, though we had exchanged relatively few words, on relatively few occasions.  And if that is not evidence of the fundamental decency of human beings, connected by the Universe, or by God, or by whatever you might like to call the immeasurable force that binds us, inexorably, one to another, then I don’t know what is.

I got choked up, but I think I did a good job of hiding it.  “I’m fighting the good fight,” I said.  I didn’t want to meet his kindness with just bravado, so I added, “Hey, it’s not an easy time, you know?”

“Oh, I know,” he said, looking straight at me.  “That’s why I figured I would stop by and let you know that these things pass.  You have a lot of people in this town who appreciate what you’ve done for them.”

“Thank you,” I said.  I thought of extending my hand to shake his, but that seemed as though it would be awkward.  I even thought of inviting him in for coffee, but that seemed even more awkward.

He must have intuited my discomfort.  “I’ve got to get the deliveries out,” he said. “You hang in there.  I’ll see you soon.  You’re always getting something or other.”

“Okay,” I said.  “Thanks, Man.”

He nodded, turned and walked back toward his truck.

I closed the door.  The challenges I was facing were no less substantial than they had been minutes ago.  But my view of the world in which I would meet those challenges was brighter than it had been. And my sense that I had the Almighty by my side for the journey was stronger, too.

Keith Ablow, MD

 

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Rebirth In This Lifetime

Rebirth is not something I associate only with life after death, nor only with the Christian notion of being “born again.” I see rebirth happening in my counseling clients’ lives all the time, as they achieve new understandings of the ways in which earlier chapters in their life histories have unconsciously limited them and then begin to choose directions in life that are truer to them. This awakening to the self is often profound enough to constitute a rebirth in this lifetime.

 

The Self is Sacred

Each of us is imbued by God or the universe with thoughts, feelings, opinions, dreams and goals that constitute our inner self. This means each of us as has a unique purpose in life and unique potentials.  That fact is nothing short of miraculous.

Seldom does a person realize his or her deepest purpose and most powerful potential without false starts, detours, periods of underperforming and other periods of significant, sometimes profound, struggle or pain.  All of these, however, can set the stage for a rebirth as an individual far truer to his or her core self.

 

Adversity and the Self

It is often, in fact, through adversity that rebirth of the self becomes possible.  Success is wonderful, but generally leads to more cycles of sameness. Human beings don’t tend to change what they are doing, when they are being rewarded for doing it.  When we encounter storms in life, however, we have the chance, sometimes at the edge of utter darkness, to reach deep into our core selves and not only survive, but discover our most pure and powerful paths forward.

It is often when our backs are to the wall that we discover levels of courage we didn’t realize we had inside us.  It is often when our finances falter that we finally choose the richness of our true career intentions.  It is sometimes when our relationships are most challenged that we can finally feel the love that has quietly sustained them, all along.

 

Waiting for Rebirth

When we encounter trials in life, it can feel as though the sun is in perpetual eclipse.  But this is never the case.  The sun always, always reemerges, often illuminating a renewed individual, with more wisdom and with more clarity about how to live life more honestly and completely.  Having faith that this process is underway is what allows a person in a “dark night of the soul” to keep his or her eyes open for new chapters of his or her life story.

According to the Bible (Isaiah 43: 18-19), “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

 

Finding a Guide through the Dark

It can be tremendously helpful to find someone to help navigate the winding road that leads to rebirth.  This is the terrain of psychologists, psychiatrists, pastoral counselors, life coaches and clergy.  In the best cases, any of these professionals are searching for their clients’ true selves.  Because then a non-fiction narrative of that person’s life, going forward, can be visualized and internalized and actualized.  And, for all intents and purposes, a person who comes to be in command of his or her non-fiction story—a story he or she was meantto live out—is a person who has undergone rebirth in this lifetime.

 

Keith Ablow, MD

Founder, The Ablow Center

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WHY TALKING TO YOURSELF ISN’T CRAZY

Somehow, the idea of talking to yourself got a bad reputation as a sign of mental instability.  Think of the television stereotype of the afflicted fellow mumbling to himself at the bus stop. But the truth is that talking to yourself can be a very powerful way to fight anxiety and depression and set the stage for extraordinary personal empowerment.

 

Who’s Listening, Anyhow? 

The reason that talking to yourself can be so powerful is that none of us is just the person we see in the mirror today—with the social skills we have honed, the financial resources we have at hand and a maturity level consistent with being an adult.  In nearly every one of us resides a less well-adjusted self which is still struggling with the disappointments, fears and pain of childhood.  And that self can feel very isolated and alone, because we tend to want to bury it or build thick walls around it.  Let’s call that part of you “the struggling self.”

 

The Struggling Self Often Has No Voice, But It Never Stays Quiet Forever

The struggling self is usually banished from consciousness because all of us want to feel strong.  So we hide the part of us that really feels the full weight of being bullied or unloved—or worse.  We hide it from others and we hide it from ourselves.  And then we push it further and further away using all manner of shields—accumulating power or wealth or being seductive or overeating or drinking too much alcohol or using too much marijuana.

Deprived of being heard, relegated to an echo chamber deep inside us, the struggling self communicates its plight through a lexicon of feelings like anxiety, depression and irritability.

 

We May Refuse to Listen to the Struggling Self, But It Will Listen to Us

When we experience unwieldy feelings of anxiety, or disturbing feelings of depression, or destabilizing anger, one way to overcome them is to identify the most vulnerable time period we’ve lived through—perhaps when we lost someone close to us in childhood, or perhaps when we were powerless to stop someone from hurting us—and literally talk out loud to that younger, more vulnerable self.

What words might you use?  Here’s an example:  Think about a woman in her 50s whose youngest child is leaving for college.  She’s feeling something more intense than empty-nest syndrome, though.  She feels panicked.  And she’s able to identify her father leaving her mother, when she was just 11-years-old, as the source of some of her distress.  She might talk out loud to that younger part of herself and say something like, “Listen, I know I haven’t been willing to think about what you went through when Dad left the house.  You were eleven.  I get it. It had to make you feel completely panicked.  And, then, Dad seemed to stay away forever.  Well, I promise to take the time to go through those feelings with you, to really explore them and listen to them.  And I want to try to comfort you and make you know I care about you.  What might help you out?  What do you need?  Time to think.  Time to walk. Time to read?”

Believe or not, the part of the woman that hasn’t healed since age 11 can hear that kindness and be reassured by it.  And that can be the beginning of reduced anxiety and increased mood.

 

Figure Out How Your Struggling Self Got Created

Each of us who struggles with low mood or anxiety or, for that matter, obsessiveness or problems paying attention, should spend the time to try to discern how the part of ourselves causing this trouble got created and left behind.  Unearthing that storyline is necessary to make the upcoming, healing chapters possible.

 

Need to Be Introduced?

Sometimes it helps to have someone skilled at helping to uncover the struggling self, to define how he or she got created and left behind, and to then make real, healing contact with it.  That’s where a counselor or therapist comes in.  And getting one to make a proper introduction of you to your struggling self will be one of the best investments you ever make.

 

Keith Ablow, MD

Founder, The Ablow Center

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