Don’t Trade Your Personal Power for the Pleasure, Distraction and “Safety”

One thing that has been highlighted by the testimony of Facebook and Twitter executives before Congress and from the documentary The Social Dilemma is the fact that we—our habits, likes and dislikes, relationships, travel habits, etc.—are being monetized by big technology companies that harvest that data and sell it to third parties.  Those third parties—including retailers and causes—then use the data to further monetize us by selling us things.  The data is also used by nefarious actors on the world stage to try to throttle our voices and limit our freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.

What do WE get out of Facebook and Twitter?  Well, mostly we get distracted.  We get hits of dopamine from our own central nervous system when we “click” or “post” or get “likes” or “Tweet.”

It’s all a little neat and tidy the way this seems to dovetail so perfectly with marijuana (and, now, other drugs) being legalized and taxed by so many states.  I am not saying drugs should be illegal, mind you.  Let’s leave that discussion for another day.  I am saying that the state has no business being in the drug business by taxing mind-altering substances.  Because that means the state has a vested interest in getting people high—kind of the way social networks have a vested interest in scraping out all our data and selling us to third parties.

Marijuana was sold to millions of people over the past many decades without anyone I know dying of marijuana toxicity. So, the states could simply legalize it and not have a hand in it.  We don’t need them to play politics with who gets licenses for marijuana distribution centers.  We don’t need them having a vested interest in getting people high because they get money when people buy “weed.”

Then, there’s the weaponizing of the pandemic by the state—with some “leaders” arguing that government should be able to supervise gatherings in our own homes and dictate terms about those gatherings.  Turn over your rights and decision-making ability to the state, and you’ll be safer.  You can live without stress.  Just follow along.

Hasn’t anyone noticed that fighting the pandemic by not surrendering our autonomy, independence and freedoms is a war worth losing some lives.  We lost 291,557 lives in World War II, refusing to yield to Hitler.  Seventy to 85 million people around the world died.  Did we do all that just to give up our right to free speech to a piece of RNA and elements of government that seem intent on taking control of our lives with the false promise of freedom from a disease?

As the Founder of Pain-2-Power, I must remind you to be very careful to not trade your autonomy for pleasure, distraction or safety.  You are going to be asked to do so, again and again, over the coming months and years. Say no whenever you can.  There’s a war being waged by those who wish to own you.  Make no mistake about it.

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

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USING YOUR PAIN TO FUEL YOUR POWER

Years ago I wrote a series of six psychological thrillers featuring a very flawed forensic psychiatrist named Frank Clevenger.  Clevenger was in deep emotional turmoil, but that was precisely the energy he drew upon to resonate with the suffering of others and render extraordinary and life changing insights—not just as he investigated crimes, but as he explored the underlying pain of many of the characters who populated the novels.

I believe my own wounds in life have been crucial to allowing me to identify wounds in others and help transform those wounds into growing places for personal power.

Why is this?  By what alchemy does pain not only connect us, one to another, but also fuel spiritual and psychological strategies for survival and growth?

First, I believe that all human beings live behind shields, something I have written extensively about in my self-help book Living the Truth .  The shields can include getting lost in computer games, or materialism, or food, or alcohol, or work, or anger, or tumultuous relationships, or any number of other distractions from our true selves.  They keep us hidden from one another and from ourselves. When we have to lower these shields, however, due to the force of the trouble in our lives, we can emerge as especially sensitive and connected versions of ourselves, unleashing extraordinary empathy.  It may well be that we feel most for one another when we are in touch with how each and every one us can be hurt.

Our resumes don’t create bonds between us.  Our successes don’t bind us, one to another.  Our metaphorical injuries do.

It is when we (even those of us who coach and counsel and provide therapy) encounter real life challenges that we have the most raw and accurate vision of the profound pain it can bring.  This has motivated me to fight harder than ever to restore the clients I work with to well-being—or to greater success than ever.  I am committed to helping set the stage for them to become everything they are destined to be.

Second, I believe that living through adversity can strengthen one’s belief—one’s faith—that  difficult chapters of one’s life story are just that—chapters.  They don’t constitute the whole of one’s story.  I am certain that pain can pave the way for better, truer chapters being “written” by anyone who believes that can occur and works to make it so.  I believe that adversity can purify, rather than destroy a human being.  I believe that pain can be transformed into power.  And that belief is setting the stage for actually helping others to “write” (i.e. live) the most powerful parts of their own lives.

Some time ago, I wrote and posted this to Facebook:

Your pain is your invitation to become more powerful.  Every challenge and crisis in life is also a calling to become your greater self.

Pain is meant to be turned into power.  Every time.  In my life and in yours.  And in the lives of everyone you love.  When you’re ready to team up to make that happen, so am I.

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

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THANKFUL FOR THE TREASURE HUNT

Plenty of people this Thanksgiving—and every Thanksgiving—are facing adversity.  Economic hardships, health challenges and political upheaval have visited millions.  Add to that potential difficulties in relationships, and it’s easy to imagine that the holiday yesterday was still a pretty stressful day for lots and lots of people.  Maybe it was for you, too.

Here’s a potential antidote for the stress:  Think of everything you’ve encountered and everything you will encounter as a treasure hunt.

Okay, I know that sounds a little like a Hallmark card, but I don’t mean it that way—at all.  What I mean is that no matter what you are living through—no matter what—there is a way to be purified, strengthened and ennobled by it.  The way to do that is to actively search, even if you are in pain, for the thread of enlightenment in whatever is unfolding.  Grab it like the lifeline it is.  Use it to climb higher.

Does loss hurt?  Yes.  Can it be searingly painful?  Yes.  Can it also make you value what you love even more and sensitize you to the pain of others?  Yes.  Can it make you more courageous as you survive the loss?  Yes.

Can unexpected detours in life leave your head spinning, trigger confusion and cause massive anxiety?  Yes.  Can they also be the setting for you keeping your eyes, heart and mind open to new opportunities that develop because the old order of your life has been upset?  Yes.

Can an uncertain future politically bring all manner of concerns with it?  Of course. Can it also lead you to learn more than ever about the forces unpinning our political realities and lead you to commit to fighting harder than ever before for what you believe in?  Yes.

Can loneliness cut you to the core?  Yes.  Can it also lead you to quiet reflection, deep study, new creative projects or actively looking for new, deep and abiding human connections?  Yes.

Never mind the silver lining everyone talks about in the context of life’s trials and tribulations.  I think that envisioning a shimmering, unbreakable golden rope is the better visual.  It is present in the midst of every moment, every situation, every challenge, every reversal, every battle.  Look for it.  Grab onto to it.  Follow it.  It will bring you to a treasure—every time.  Believe in it, and it will never, ever let you down.  And . . . be thankful for it.

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

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How to Change the Past

I have written before that the future defines the past—meaning, that you can’t judge the stresses and challenges you are living through until you see them in retrospect.  Losing a job can pave the way for starting a business that succeeds.  Turmoil in a marriage that hurts a lot can set the stage for starting counseling and establishing a more powerful bond.  Maybe one of the simplest examples is holding a stock:  You might buy it and watch it go down in value.  Maybe it loses 80 percent of its value.  You’re thinking how foolish it was to buy it.  You wish you never had.  Then, it rises to three times the price you paid for it.  It then becomes pretty hard to beat yourself up over the purchase or wish you had never made it.  The future, therefore, ended up defining the past.

This morning, a friend of mine named Howard Strauber sent me a quote that takes the concept even further. The quote was from Willem De Kooning, an abstract artist born in the Netherlands, who emigrated to the United States in 1926 as a stowaway on a British freighter, joining the Woodstock art colony in 1928.  DeKooning said, “The past does not influence me; I influence it.”

I love DeKooning’s insight because it makes it clearer that the past isn’t just defined by the future in a passive way.  We need not see ourselves as blown here or there by the winds of time, then able to look back and think about the journey as worth it or not.  Each of us has the ability to define the past by making the most of our opportunities in the future.  Like DeKooning, we have to board the vessels that take us where we want to go, often at some peril, often with real risk.  In so doing, we are not only charting a course for the future but, in a very real way, we are laying the groundwork to redefine the past.

A boxer who loses nine bruising rounds to win in the tenth has to find the inner strength and clarity of mind to draw on in that tenth round.  But the tenth round turns the whole story into a comeback story, instead of a defeat.  And the whole of the story, therefore, really does change the past in important ways—because absorbing pain on the path to power is a whole lot different than absorbing pain on the way to accepting defeat.  Pain-2-Power.  Now, where did you hear that before?

That’s really a big part of what I’ve been up to as a life coach, by the way.  I collaborate with my clients to turn the next chapters of their life stories into the most powerful ones of their lives.  In so doing, we not only optimize today and tomorrow, we redefine the past as the prelude to wonderful personal and professional successes.

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

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How Much Does it Really Matter Who Won the Election?

Some people have told me they don’t really see how much the results of the Presidential election can change their lives.  They generally say something like, “Politicians are limited in what they can do.  There are checks and balances built into our government, and the chances that one party ends up with control of the Presidency, the House and the Senate is miniscule.  Not to mention, the Supreme Court.”

Here’s why it matters—a lot—whether a duly elected President takes office or one who was not duly elected (whichever man you favor):  Narratives that veer into fiction are inherently veering into trouble.  Insert falsehoods into a story that purports to be true, and it will fall on its face—eventually.  In this case, the story is the story of America, and to the extent that it becomes fictional, it loses its inherent power to move people toward what it represents (still including, by the way, values like freedom and autonomy and courage and tolerance).

Let me put this another, starker way:  Create a story that infects hundreds of millions of people and the nation they populate with a powerful dose of fiction, and God or the Universe (I prefer God; you might not) will make sure there is hell to pay.

Surgically removing a false thread of narrative from a long-running story is messy surgery.  Just ask anyone who has tried to fundamentally change a storyline in a novel.  Too many events and themes intersect to cleanly pull the storyline out like a block in a game of Jenga.  The tower sways ominously, or it crashes.

The same thing is true no matter where fiction is built into a non-fiction storyline.  Businesses that elevate fake leaders by sleight of hand end up led off cliffs.  Sports teams that draft players based on anything other than real talent end up losing, often painfully.

Hitler was a false prophet and hater of people—a fiction—who was scripted into the narrative of Germany to try to artificially increase the German people’s false sense of power in the world.  He was a drug—like cocaine.  And detoxing Germany cost the whole world an unspeakable amount.

Whoever you support for President, we should all support putting the person in office who was duly, honestly elected.  Because, ultimately, the truth always wins—and getting back to the truth, detoxing from fiction, while always worth the journey, can be hell on earth.

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

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The Myth of Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

 

Yeah, well, I think this whole Humpty Dumpty story is baloney.  It teaches kids that if they fall down, they might not be able to get up—no matter what.  They’ll be irreparable.

Nothing—really, maybe nothing—could be further from the truth.  So, if you have a little of the Humpty Dumpty rhyme playing quietly at the back of your mind, it’s time to turn the volume to zero.

The only way Humpty Dumpty falls and breaks into so many pieces that he can’t be put together, again, is if he forgets that the king is something called the SELF and that the SELF is hardwired to God or the Universe (as you prefer, but I prefer God).  The SELF is never shattered.  You may think that it is and behave as though it is, but start believing otherwise, and acting otherwise, and you will see the Truth—namely that you cannot be crushed.  In fact, the Truth is that attempts to crush you, when approached from the proper perspective (which, granted, is not so easy to manifest at times), will make you stronger.

The SELF is a diamond.  Under pressure, it gets stronger; it doesn’t shatter.

Have you had a business “fail?”  Do you know that the seeds of your success are somewhere in that “failure?”

Have you had a marriage “fail?”  Do you know that the seeds of a more perfect relationship are to be found in the less perfect chapters of the last one?

Have you been defeated in an election?  Do you know that your “defeat” is the preface to your next victory—of one kind or another?

Do you know that even death won’t defeat you—that you will never be irretrievably lost because every single kind word you spoke and decent thing you did during your life resonates for eternity in those who survive you?

Have you forgotten YOU?  I’m here to, among other things, remind you just who you are and where you ought be going.

I wonder what Humpty Dumpty did next, once he realized that the King’s men who couldn’t come up with a plan to put him back together again, were just broken people themselves, who obviously didn’t know their own power in this life?

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

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Don’t be Guided by Polls in Your Own Life

Whether you voted for Donald Trump or Joe Biden in the Presidential election, you would likely agree that all the polls were wrong.  They predicted a massive win for Biden.  They predicted massive losses for Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate.  Neither happened.  They got it wrong.

The polls were wrong back in 2016, too.  Only a few polls predicted Donald Trump’s election.  You remember how shocked the television anchors looked, right?

Trump never let the polls dictate where he campaigned.  Back in 2016, he wasn’t supposed to have a chance in Michigan or Wisconsin or Pennsylvania.  But he went there anyhow, again and again.  He believed voters would support him.  He felt it in his gut.  So, he acted on his intuition and, when appropriate, that of his top advisors.

See, polls aren’t really unbiased.  The questions that are asked and the particular sample of the population who answer them (or don’t) determine quite a lot about the results.

You may not be running for office, but there are informal polls being conducted all the time about things you care about in your life.  Maybe people at work get informally polled about whether the new venture will succeed, then someone tells you, “Most people think we’re barking up the wrong tree.”  Maybe your friends tell you, “I just don’t think you have a chance with him; he’s still hung up on his ex-girlfriend.”  Maybe a group of potential investors seem mostly to agree that another hotel just can’t make it in town.  Maybe a focus group agrees.

As Albert Einstein said, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

You should never forget your gift.  If you consider the data, and your heart still tells you something different, then listen to your heart.

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

This blog was adapted from Dr. Ablow’s book, TRUMP YOUR LIFE  written with his co-author Christian Josi.

 

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The Non-Grasping Mind

Bear with me here.  I am going to try to explain something difficult to explain.  It is at the heart of the philosophy and art of Gung Fu (or Kung Fu).  It is this:  In mastering the martial art of Gung Fu or in mastering the art of overcoming any adversary or obstacle, one’s mind needs to see or to watch the drama unfolding without rigidly holding on—to anything.  The grasping mind is the one that ego dominates, which can be commandeered by anger or regret or fear.  The non-grasping mind observes and acts based on unfolding forces and events, but always using, rather than opposing with brute force the energies that run counter to one’s goals.

To use a metaphor, the non-grasping mind is the ball that floats on an incoming tide, rather than the rock smashed by it , again and again, and, ultimately, worn away by it.

The non-grasping mind is the mind of the person who, faced with the Covid pandemic, does not lose itself in fear or despair, but, instead, wonders what service to one’s fellow men can be rendered amidst the calamity.  The non-grasping mind is the mind of the person who, faced with the pandemic, re-engineers her business to create products needed by others (and perhaps does lots of good while doing very well).  The non-grasping mind is the mind of the person who sees violence on the streets and wonders how to hold up a mirror to that violence (perhaps metaphorically, but perhaps literally) in order to allow those who are violent to see themselves.

The non-grasping mind, as Bruce Lee, the legendary martial artist and philosopher put it, “grasps nothing, yet . . . refuses nothing; it receives, but does not keep.”

Lee has noted that Alan Watts, the late philosopher, writer and speaker, put it this way, “[Non-grasping mind is] a state of wholeness in which the mind functions freely and easily, without the sensation of a second mind or ego standing over it with a club.”

Imagine allowing the mind to function in this non-grasping way in business—receiving a threat to a massive project without the impulse to panic or the impulse to fire back at the competition.  Instead, the non-grasping mind would note the threat and respond to it dispassionately, with surgical precision and no alarm or hatred or fear.  The tennis ball on the tide, still floating or watching calmly from the sand, after all the furious waves crash.

The beauty of the non-grasping mind is that it is not inactive.  It is massively active, on its own, without being driven by ego.  The mind sees things which the overheated mind does not.  The non-grasping mind allows for effective actions that the clenching mind does not.  The non-grasping mind dances life’s difficulties out the door, rather than trying to throw them out the door.

The non-grasping mind is not the mind of a victim.  Far from it.  It will even absorb blows while tiring out its opponent and waiting to strike back.  Because it knows when to stand firm and when to bend, all the while knowing it must and it will prevail, or be back to try, again—and again.

Buy this book.  It is only a beginning, but a good way to start.

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

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Who Needs You to be a Knight Today

I have heard enough stories in my nearly three decades talking with people about their deepest concerns and most treasured goals to know that every one of us has someone in our lives who could use a knight today.  I know that sounds a little bit like a Hallmark card, but I don’t mean it that way.  I mean it this way:  People posture.  People hold up shields to convince others how strong they are and that all is well.  Sometimes, the shields are inside them, deployed to convince themselves that they can power through anything and everything, without any help.  That’s sometimes because they never got the help they needed in the past.

If you take two minutes right now to think about someone—a friend or family member or colleague—who would welcome a visit from a knight, I bet you’ll be able to think of somebody.  After all, America faces a pandemic with massive financial implications.  We face deeper questions about our democracy than at any time in my life.  And those issues don’t supersede others that have always been the ones that make the societal ones recede from the fronts of our minds—loss of loved ones and illnesses other than Covid, just to name a few.Notice I didn’t use the term “knight in shining armour.”  Most of the knights who visit us aren’t without their own challenges.  Their armour might even be dented and rusted in places.  That’s probably the way to recognize the real ones, anyhow.

I’ve never had a knight gallop to my door on a horse.  The times one has arrived, she or he has come via a phone call or an email.  Occasionally, one still announces herself or himself via the mail.  The words they carry like a lance are simple ones, but powerful ones, “I’m here.  Let me know what you need,” or “How about I stop by for coffee, and we put our heads together?”

You could do that for someone today.  Who is it?

When I woke up one day many months ago to bad and unfair headlines about me in the newspaper, I received a text from a buddy of mine.  It said, “What?  Like, you weren’t famous enough?  We should get dinner.”

Translation:  This isn’t the end of the world.  I am still your friend.  I will stand with you. 

Is it an accident that I remember that text?  No.  It mattered.  It still matters.

You are just as powerful as my buddy.  Who can you “show up for” today?

 

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

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Always Assume You Will Encounter Increasing Resistance as You Begin to Achieve Your Goals

You might think that resistance to accomplishing goals decreases as you pursue them and start making some headway.  You might imagine the first hurdles on your path as the most daunting ones.  But I want to caution you not to think that resistance lessens as you achieve more or say more of what you think or participate in a change in your family, your company or your country that matters.  Resistance often actually increases as you move forward.

Small minds, intent on stalling or frustrating real change or creativity, become increasingly obstructive in the face of bold momentum.  Unfortunately, people who don’t know how to achieve great things often can only derive feelings of power by standing in the way of them.

Consider the metaphor of a circuit.  Drive more current through the circuit and the resistance doesn’t suddenly evaporate.  Just the opposite.  And more heat comes off the circuit, too.  The same is likely to be true as you speak your mind, pursue your success, insist on respect in relationships and demand that your rights be upheld.

Here’s the key:  Rather than being disheartened by this opposition, you interpret the heightened resistance, especially to your loftiest goals, as a sign that you are truly on a road to something genuine and important.  Turn the friction you feel coming from small minds into fuel for your intentions.  Double down.

Think about the last minute of a Stanley Cup championship game when a team is up by one goal.  Do you see the other team skating and checking the same way?  No.  It’s as if everyone on the team down one goal has gotten a shot of adrenaline.  They see their adversaries about to win it all, and that creates a surge of countervailing force designed to stop them.

Your job is not to yield in the face of the expected increased resistance to . . . well . . . you.  There’s that word, again.  And that’s no accident.  Because when you are acting on your real intentions and beliefs and dreams and rights, there’s no difference between those things and yourself.

That’s why, if you’ll look up, four paragraphs above this one, you’ll see the words “pursue your success.”  It doesn’t just say “pursue success.”  That’s because what you want to achieve, in a free country, under God, is, in fact, yours when you do achieve it.

Double down when the hurdles, hijinks and hysterics designed to stop you increase.  Interpret them as evidence that you’re closer to winning the game.  If you get the chance, try to put another goal on the scoreboard. You’ll never be scared onto defense and you’ll never just run the clock.

You can prove your resistance wrong.  Part of the way is by expecting it to increase, as your chances of success do.

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

 

This blog was adapted from Lesson #5 in Trump Your Life, available by visiting Trump Your Life Now.

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